Childbirth Safety Still Paramount Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
Update: Live Childbirth Classes have resumed at Women's Hospital.
Childbirth remains one of the most precious times in a family’s life, even though the COVID-19 pandemic is necessitating changes in many birth plans.
At North Mississippi Medical Center Women’s Hospital, safety is still the utmost concern. In mid-March, NMMC hospitals began allowing new mothers only one designated family member or caregiver throughout their hospital stay to limit the number of visitors. Children under age 17 are no longer allowed to visit. In the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, visitation is restricted to mother and father/support person only.
“We recognize the value that having loved ones near brings, but these changes were necessary to assure the safety of our patients, their families and our staff,” said Ellen Friloux, NMMC-Tupelo vice president of Women and Children’s Services. “We’re taking every precaution to keep everyone safe.”
Lee and Ashley Long of Tupelo welcomed son Buckley into their family Tuesday at Women’s Hospital. “We realized once there was a pandemic that things were going to be different,” Ashley said. “We just didn’t know how different. Things were changing day to day.”
Staff wore protective gear during delivery, and even Lee and Ashley wore masks. Buckley roomed-in with his parents, standard practice at Women’s Hospital for many years, which meant he was not exposed in a nursery. On the Mother-Baby Unit, the same nurse takes care of the mother and baby, which also lessens exposure.
“No one ever came into my hospital room without wearing protective gear,” Ashley said. “Even with such barriers between everyone, I could feel that they cared. They were always very professional and explained what they were doing and why.”
While the Longs were disappointed not to be able to share the birth of their first child with family and friends, they understand why. “We knew that it was for the safety of all of us,” Ashley said. “It was the best experience it could have been under the circumstances.”
The pandemic has prompted some expectant parents to consider home birth, but local doctors still advise against it. According to a report from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Committee on Obstetric Practice, planned home birth is associated with a more than twofold increased risk of perinatal death (1-2 in 1,000) and a threefold increased risk of neonatal seizures or serious neurologic dysfunction (0.4-0.6 in 1,000).
“Even with the coronavirus pandemic, we still feel like home birth is not as safe as delivery in an accredited birth center or hospital, “ said NMMC maternal fetal specialist Justin Brewer, M.D. “If something goes wrong and you have to be transported to a hospital in the middle of delivery, it’s not going to end well. We just want you and your baby to be safe.”
Childbirth classes are no longer meeting in person at Women’s Hospital but are available virtually through the Google Duo app. Breastfeeding and C-section classes are also available virtually by contacting Mary Jo Beeman, RN, Women’s Hospital educator, at (662) 377-4956 or firstname.lastname@example.org. “It’s not perfect, but it’s safer for you to do it this way,” Beeman said. While in-person tours are suspended at the facility, virtual tours are available at www.nmhs.net/childbirth-classes. Patients can still come in and fill out their pre-admission paperwork after their seventh month of pregnancy.
NMMC Women’s Hospital recently achieved the highly prestigious international Baby-Friendly designation, demonstrating that the hospital is adhering to the highest standards of care for breastfeeding mothers and their babies. “We encourage breastfeeding because of its protective nature and other benefits,” Friloux said. “If anything, this pandemic has encouraged more women to breastfeed because it reduces the risk of viruses and other infections.”
Board-certified lactation consultants continue to coach breastfeeding mothers during and after their hospital stay. In addition to helping in the hospital room, they also see new families in the Newborn Follow-Up Clinic and are available for virtual consultations if needed.
For more information, call the NMMC Women’s Hospital at (662) 377-4902 or visit www.nmhs.net/pregnancy-birth.