PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Hospitals in New York City recently banned visitors from labor and delivery, meaning women would have their babies without their partners.
“It was a dramatic policy change in New York City, and it was driven out of desperation with the number of cases that were presenting themselves, and what risk even a single visitor at a critical life moment might present to your team,” says St. Clair Hospital Chief Medical Officer, Dr. John T. Sullivan.
“They probably thought that was the safest thing for mom and baby, for their healthcare workers, too,” adds Dr. April Dunmyre, an OBGYN at Magee Women’s Hospital.
The policy was so unpopular the state overruled it by executive order to allow one support person.
“To deny a woman to have a partner there is really difficult. It’s difficult from an emotional perspective. There’s data to suggest people do much better in labor when they have someone with them,” says Dr. Paul Weinbaum, an OBGYN at West Penn Hospital.
Pittsburgh area hospitals all have similar regulations. Allegheny Health Network, UPMC, and St. Clair Hospitals allow one support person at deliveries. It must be the same person throughout the stay.
“It used to be two people, and we’ve cut that down to one. And I think it will stay that way,” says Dr. Weinbaum.
Of course, the in-person visitor cannot be sick.
Others may be present by video chat.
In this pandemic, pregnancy is a different experience. Doctors do checkups with telemedicine. Women have cuffs to monitor their blood pressures at home, and urine dipsticks to watch for protein.
If the number of COVID-19 cases goes up in Pittsburgh, will hospitals change their rules further?
“I think there’s a little more interest in everyone wearing masks,” says Dr. Weinbaum.
“We are debating the next escalation in our policy, including masking patients and fathers in the labor room. We’ve discussed doing two temperatures per day,” says Dr. Sullivan.
“We’ve never dealt with this in our lifetime. It’s just something that’s unprecedented,” says Dr. Dunmyre.
Dr. Weinbaum says he has received calls from pregnant patients in New York who want to transfer their obstetrical care here. He said if they do this, they must observe a 14-day quarantine once they arrive in Pittsburgh.