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April 01, 2020

Attention expectant moms: No, you don’t have to give birth alone

IU Health Methodist Hospital

Attention expectant moms: No, you don’t have to give birth alone

IU Health labor and delivery providers reassure women that while precautions are in place during the COVID-19 outbreak, none of it changes the miracle that happens in the delivery room.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

Expectant moms may have a little more anxiety these days, but IU Health labor and delivery providers want to reassure them that the miracle of birth continues uninterrupted.

Forget what you might have heard on social media about women having to give birth alone amid the coronavirus chaos. It’s business as usual in IU Health Methodist Hospital’s labor and delivery unit, albeit with some modifications to keep moms and babies extra safe.

“We do have visitor restrictions, and as of now, our patients can have one support person (in addition to licensed medical personnel), but our moms are good, they’re healthy and they’re safe,” said Caitlin Ernst, clinical manager for labor and delivery in Riley Maternity and Newborn Health at Methodist Hospital.

“We’re still delivering babies as normal. We may be in more protective gear, but you can still expect a normal labor and delivery.”

On the chance that more space is needed for other hospital patients, Methodist and Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health recently coordinated the transfer of dozens of infants from the NICU at Methodist to Riley and IU Health North Hospital.

“We still have a NICU team here and we have a small space where babies can be kept if they need a short period of observation after delivery,” Ernst said. “We still have NICU coverage and support.”

Planning for organized transitions such as this enables each hospital to continue providing the highest level of care for every patient.

“Our team of nurses and providers has risen to the challenge with grace and patience and understanding,” Ernst said. “Everyone feels very passionate about continuing the quality of care that we’ve always delivered.”

Nurse Courtney Myers was doing just that as she helped new mom Lizbeth Ramirez with her newborn on Monday at Methodist.

Staff have remained flexible in the midst of constant change, whether it’s a shift in responsibilities, a change in schedule or a new protocol, Ernst added.

“We are confident and committed to delivering the best care and doing what we always have done,” she said. “Our team is passionate about keeping our population safe.”

That means maternity patients and their partner/support person are screened upon arrival for signs of COVID-19, just like the rest of the hospital population, and precautions are in place to allow for proper treatment of expectant moms who test positive should that become necessary.

BIRTH STOPS FOR NOTHING

“Nothing like a brand new baby to shine a little light!

That was a Facebook post written last week by Darla Berry, manager of IU Health’s new midwifery practice. In a time of darkness for so many, she is witness to new life, and that never gets old.

There’s no reason for women to alter their labor and delivery plan at this point, advised Berry. If they planned to give birth in the hospital, that’s where they should give birth.

“For women, this is not a time to make a rash decision based on fear,” she said. “Not everybody is a good candidate for home birth. It should be your plan because that’s what your plan is, not because you’re afraid of something else. It requires more preparation than that.”

Berry, who has been a certified midwife for two decades and “catches” babies at Methodist, said she understands the concerns about being in the hospital now, but team members are trained to deliver care in the safest way possible, with appropriate infection-control protocols.

“I totally get the fear, but I think that women, and pregnant mamas especially, have to really work hard, probably harder than any other population, to not let that fear overtake them.”

Birth is still an incredible, beautiful moment, she said, and everything going on outside those walls, as bad as it is, doesn’t change that moment.

“Birth stops for nothing, not even COVID-19,” Berry said. “Emotions are so high right now, I don’t know if I can say this without crying, but that moment is still that moment. You are still in that bubble. You are in that room and whatever chaos is going on outside that room is exactly there – outside that room.”

Asked how she is able to help walk women through this stressful time, Berry said “a healthy dose of flexibility for everybody, for the entire planet, would be a fabulous thing.”

And while the precautions being taken might concern some, it’s the right thing to do as the hospital prepares for a potential surge in COVID-19 patients.

“None of it changes what happens in the delivery room,” she said. “We still have a NICU team, a delivery team. We are not compromising care.”

TIME TO COCOON WITH BABY

While the limitation on visitors now is challenging, she said, “What people have to remember is that we are trying to protect everyone, and in trying to protect everyone it’s going to feel to some like we’re trying to exclude them and that’s not the case.”

Actually, births and the postpartum period might be just a bit more peaceful without extended family crowding the new parents in and out of the hospital, Ernst and Berry said.

And peace is just what new parents need, pandemic or not.

“I don’t want to exclude family members and dis visitors, but I think we’ve taken that to a level that’s unhealthy,” Berry said. “That postpartum period is for that family unit, and time alone at home is a gift. You don’t need to be out running around; you don’t need a thousand visitors.”

She offers a better idea.

“What you need is dinner. People can make you dinner and drop it on your porch. And bring a roll of toilet paper. You need time to slow down and totally cocoon with this baby,” she said.

“We’re all after the same thing. We all want a healthy mom and a healthy baby. COVID-19 or not, that goal doesn’t change.”

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