Judy Rollins, Ph.D., RN
Editor, Pediatric Nursing
It has been said that the birth of a baby is nature’s message that the world must go on. Perhaps in this time of pandemic, an optimistic message is appreciated more than ever. However, although the notion of hope is encouraging, parents-to-be want to know what steps they can take to help best assure a healthy baby.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women who are pregnant might be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared to individuals who are not pregnant. Also, expecting mothers with COVID-19 could be at increased risk for other adverse outcomes, such as preterm birth.
Understanding the risks
As there is no way to ensure zero risk of infection, pregnant women need to understand the risks and know how to be as safe as possible. According to the CDC, in general, the risks are the same for everyone. The more people you interact with, the more closely you interact with them, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk for getting and spreading COVID-19. Adhering to guidelines about masks, hand washing, and social distancing also are essential.
Going to the doctor’s office or clinic can feel scary during the pandemic, but now is not the time for pregnant women to avoid recommended healthcare appointments. Mothers-to-be need to keep up with immunizations such as the flu and whooping cough vaccines, and to seek help for any health concerns. To avoid unnecessary direct contract, some visits may be postponed or switched to telemedicine based on the expecting mother’s risk and community situation.
There is still much we do not know about the risks for babies born to mothers who have the virus. However, we do know that infections in newborns from infected mothers are uncommon.
Once the baby arrives
Although the number of out-of-hospital births in the United States is increasing, the vast majority of births occur in hospitals. The pandemic has presented safety challenges for hospitals, and some have been met more easily than others. For example, unable to conduct hospital tours and classes onsite, hospitals have simply moved tours and childbirth, breastfeeding, and other classes online.
Other safety issues require more complex solutions. Recognizing families as central to outstanding patient care, hospital policies generally promote a family-centered approach, such as permitting unlimited visiting by fathers, and supporting visits from siblings and grandparents eager to meet and bond with their newest family member.
The pandemic has presented a challenge for hospitals in their attempt to support such efforts while trying to keep the mother and baby safe. Many interventions involve visitor restrictions. For example, after the birth, most hospitals now allow only one approved visitor for the duration of the stay.
Bringing a child into the world at this time of uncertainty can seem frightening. However, expecting parents have many sources of information and support to help them navigate this complicated journey — a journey that, despite everything, is filled with hope and dreams.