Parents-to-be all across the country are finding out that dads might be banned from the labor and delivery room during the COVID-19 pandemic, also referred to as the novel coronavirus. It doesn’t matter if you’re having a vaginal delivery or a cesarean section, in many cities, dads are not allowed. Pregnant moms who are due in the next few weeks are feeling the weight of being alone in the labor and delivery room. Know what to expect, how to plan for a solo-delivery, and how to keep your baby safe from the coronavirus. Speak with your obstetrician as soon as possible and ask lots of questions. With our infant mortality rate being 2.3 times that of white people (OMH) and with Black women “dying 2½ times more often than white women (NBC),” we need to ask plenty of questions about any possible changes. We spoke with Dr. Kameelah Phillips of the Calla Women’s Health-an inclusive and comprehensive OB/GYN practice in New York City to get the heads-up on what to expect when delivering a baby during the coronavirus pandemic.
What Changes Should I Expect At The Hospital During This Pandemic?
“Moms should expect to have significant changes during labor and delivery. Depending on the severity of COVID-19 in their city, some hospitals are restricting partners from the delivery room. These changes are happening on a day to day basis. If partners are allowed, some hospitals are requiring them to wear masks during their time in the hospital and stay in the labor room,” said Dr. Phillips, “If the partner leaves the hospital, they may not be allowed back in. Check with your hospital for specific instructions or new protocols regarding partners and family members.”
Will Dad Be Allowed In The Labor And Delivery Room?
It depends on the hospital and it is changing day-by-day. Some hospitals are saying no to support people, others are allowing just one person. Check with your hospital and obstetrician ahead of your due date. Other hospitals are allowing the partners to attend the delivery but they have to leave right after the baby is born.
Why Wouldn’t Doctors Want Dads In The Labor And Delivery Room?
“The issue has been that fathers and mothers (and of course not all of them-but enough) have been coming in as asymptomatic carriers and getting sick during the hospital stay,” said Dr. Phillips, “Unfortunately, partners have not been adhering to the mask-wearing, hand washing, coughing, and distancing policies. They were not telling the truth about symptoms, fever, and travel history. As a result, other people including, delivering mothers, fathers, doctors, nurses, housekeepers, and more are getting sick. There was a need to reduce the human traffic on the floor as these rules were not being followed. We can’t have mothers going from labor and delivery to the ICU. That is unacceptable. It was a difficult and heavily weighed decision for the hospitals that had to make this call.”
“Hospital staff has been compliant with these policies. Unfortunately, the general public has not, which has led to a surge in infections,” said Dr. Phillips.
“With our infant mortality rate being 2.3 times that of white people and with Black women “dying 2½ times more often than white women,” we need to ask plenty of questions about any possible changes.”
Can I Catch COVID-19 At The Hospital?
The likelihood of catching the coronavirus in the labor and delivery room is low. The hospital is a sterile environment and you are not directly exposed to coronavirus patients on the labor and delivery floor. Doctors and nurses follow protocols to protect you and your baby from exposure. And they are putting these rules into effect to keep you and your baby safe.
I Have Symptoms. Will I Be Seperated From My Baby?
Yes, there are times when it is recommended to separate a healthy baby from a sick mother. If the mother is COVID-19 positive, showing signs of infection, and/or undergoing testing, it may be recommended that the mother and baby are separated and/or the mother uses a mask.
Although it is yet unknown if the coronavirus can be passed from mother to her infant during childbirth (CDC), the CDC is recommending that new mothers are separated from their infants at birth. With the goal of keeping the newborn from contracting the disease, the mother and baby could be separated for up to two-weeks.
Know that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the opposite, that it is not necessary for moms infected with the COVID-19 virus to be separated from their newborn; however it seems that U.S. hospitals are following the CDC guidelines instead.
What If Mom And/Or The Baby Test Positive For COVID-19? What Happens Next?
“If both are positive, then typically they can be together unless one develops symptoms that require a higher level of care. Then, they may be separated. Mothers can breastfeed and/or give milk to a healthy family member to feed the baby,” said Dr. Phillips.
Is Breast Milk Safe?
Yes, in past studies breastmilk has been found to protect against viruses and other pathogens (Medscape) but, according to the CDC, “in limited studies on women with COVID-19 and another coronavirus infection, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), the virus has not been detected in breast milk; however we do not know whether mothers with COVID-19 can transmit the virus via breast milk.”
“At this time, many hospitals have a no-visitor policy for family members or friends. If a dad cannot come to the hospital, patients are making active use of video conferencing apps.”
When Can The Dad Visit His Baby?
“At this time, many hospitals have a no-visitor policy for family members or friends. If a dad cannot come to the hospital, patients are making active use of video conferencing apps. Otherwise, it is a discharge home, when he can meet them downstairs [in the hospital lobby] for pickup,” said Dr. Phillips.
When Can I Take My Baby Home?
“This can vary by hospital and symptoms. In my facility, we are trying to send people with no infection or COVID positive people with mild symptoms home as soon as possible. If it is a vaginal delivery then in 24 hours. A C-section may be discharged in 48 hours. Of course, this depends on other medical considerations that should not be ignored or dismissed just because COVID 19 is a concern,” said Dr. Phillips.