As states are slowly reopening, many fathers are still not allowed to accompany their pregnant spouse to their prenatal appointments, and hospitals across the nation continue to limit visitations in the labor and delivery room to only one support person who tests negative for COVID-19.
These restrictions and the fear of the uncertainty of the CCP virus, commonly known as the coronavirus, are causing anxiety and stress for many women pregnant with their first child.
For Tampa Bay resident and first-time mom, Shannon Oras, being pregnant during the CCP virus, has brought a rollercoaster of emotions. She and her husband had gone through six unsuccessful fertility treatments before becoming pregnant with the seventh procedure in February.
“We worked so hard to get pregnant and he came to every appointment with me during IVF [in vitro fertilization],” Oras, a development manager at High Risk Hope, told The Epoch Times. “He did all of my injections and now he can’t see his own child on the ultrasound.”
Considered a high-risk pregnancy, Oras goes to more prenatal care visits, but the clinic bans fathers or any support person to accompany new moms, for the safety of their staff and the patients. Oras says her husband will most likely have to wait until the baby arrives in October to be able to accompany her during delivery.
According to a BayCare representative, its hospitals in the Tampa Bay area, will not be lifting its restrictions in the delivery and maternity units. “At this point, our guidelines are remaining the same—one support person.” As for prenatal visits, that is at the discretion of the obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) clinics.
Nicole Starbuck, who is 11 weeks pregnant with her first child, says it has been stressful going to the prenatal visits by herself. “What’s concerning me the most about being pregnant during COVID-19 is my husband not being able to join me for my prenatal appointments due to hospital regulations,” Starbuck, a life coach in Colorado, wrote in an email to The Epoch Times.
Starbuck said her first prenatal visit was difficult and upsetting since the hospital “waited until the day before my appointment that I wouldn’t be allowed to bring my husband with me.” She had to drive herself while fatigued and suffering from morning sickness. “This was very distressing for me, resulting in a panic attack.”
UCHealth hospitals in Colorado will allow only one support person in the delivery room according to its updated webpage. A UCHealth spokesperson said their clinics are allowing one support person to prenatal visits.
Dr. Robert Atlas, the OB/GYN Chair at Mercy Medical, says he empathizes with the new moms, but the safety of staff and patients is important to him. “Reducing the number of people who can come and visit, I think is probably hard, but it puts a safer environment to work,” he said to The Epoch Times.
Mercy Medical had allowed five people to be with the woman during the delivery but reduced that to one during the pandemic. As for prenatal visits, spouses, or another family member is still not allowed to join the new mom-to-be.
Atlas said lifting the prenatal restrictions have not been discussed. “As I look at it, my main goal is to protect the pregnant patient from developing COVID,” he said.
Effects of the CCP Virus on Pregnant Women Still Unknown
With limited information and research to rely on, doctors still do not know how the novel CCP virus affects pregnant women. “This is an ever-evolving virus and infection that is I think in the United States, and even probably worldwide, we’re still trying to figure out what’s the safest, best way to provide the care that we’d like to provide,” Atlas said.
Oras said that sometimes it has been difficult to navigate through her stress with the contradicting information about pregnancy and the CCP virus, and not being able to address her concerns when her doctors only inform her to follow the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) guideline.
According to the CDC, COVID-19 does not affect pregnant people differently than other people. Pregnant women are asked to follow the same guidelines provided to prevent the CCP virus.
To better understand how COVID-19 affects pregnant women and their health, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has begun funding a study that “will analyze the medical records of up to 21,000 women to evaluate whether changes to healthcare delivery that were implemented as a result of the pandemic have led to higher rates of pregnancy-related complications and cesarean delivery.”
According to its press release on May 19, NIH will also aim to study if pregnant women with COVID-19 can transmit the virus during pregnancy, and track over 1,500 pregnant women positive with the disease by “monitoring their health for six weeks after childbirth.”
Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network researchers will be conducting the study that will begin this month and is estimated to finish in the spring of 2021, according to an email from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
With the reopening of the economy and people going back to work, Atlas suggests that pregnant women should continue to take “appropriate precautions” when going out. “I think everyone needs to be still social distancing,” he says. “You should reduce your exposure to others towards the end of your pregnancy to try and reduce your risks.”
Dr. Kim Langdon from Parenting Pod, also suggests staying away from crowds. “They are safer at home than being in crowded places,” she writes in an email to The Epoch Times. She emphasizes washing your hands, wearing a mask, and not touching your face to overcome “fear of catching the virus at the hospital.”
Langdon, a retired OB/GYN with 19-years of clinical experience, says that first-time expecting moms “need to get on websites or group chats for support,” for their mental and emotional wellness.
Starbuck says, “the only thing that helps me feel better about this situation is hoping that things will be resolved soon,” and when her husband can accompany her to the “ultrasound at 20 weeks to see his first-born in-utero and find out the sex of the baby.”
For Oras who has a “past with anxiety and depression,” she says staying away from social media, talking to her therapist weekly via telehealth, and getting out in the sun has helped with her mental wellbeing. “When we started IVF, I decided to just get off of social media, so not having it this entire time has been helpful for me.”
“It’s one thing having a great supportive spouse, which I do, but it’s another thing unloading on them and making your stress their stress,” Oras said. “I think it’s really important to have someone professional.”
For pregnant women who have any concern about being infected with the CCP virus, Atlas says to get tested. “We’re lucky now that testing is widely available around the country,” he says.