The wonderful thing about life is that it continues on no matter what’s happening in the world. And a big part of life is, of course, birth. Expecting a new addition to the family is an amazing time but it can also put soon-to-be moms at a greater risk of infection. We already know that influenza and respiratory infections can result in more severe illness in pregnant women, but a new CDC report states that the risks posed by COVID-19 are also higher for expecting customers.
Now more than ever, it’s important to take necessary precautions to stay healthy during pregnancy, and to keep baby and mom well after delivery. To help expecting parents protect themselves against the increased risk of COVID-19, once again we turn to The Good Doctor – Dr. J. Kevin Croston, CEO of North Memorial Health – for some good advice.
What should I do during my pregnancy to stay safe and healthy?
Pregnant women often have changes in their bodies that can mean greater risk of infection. “Unfortunately, if you’re expecting that might mean you’re at greater risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. The CDC reports that in Sweden pregnant women with COVID-19 were five times as likely to be admitted to the ICU, and four times as likely to need to be placed on a ventilator,” Dr. Croston says. “Staying even more protective of your health and staying vigilant with safety practices are both crucial.” He notes that both the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health recommend that moms-to-be stay home as much as possible, and practice safety measures like washing your hands frequently for a least 20 seconds, disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces at least once a day, and limiting contact to only the people in your household.
“Working moms may not be able to isolate or self-quarantine before their due date, so remember if you must go out, practice social distancing as much as possible, wear a mask and practice good hand hygiene,” advises Dr. Croston. “Whether or not isolation prior to delivery is possible, it’s important that everyone in the household do everything possible to lower the risks of infection when it’s time for baby to arrive.” Dr. Croston adds that it’s even more important now to continue prenatal visits with your doctor so they can help advise you on the necessary steps and precautions that are right for you.
What can I do to educate myself before my delivery date?
Learning about labor, delivery and caring for a newborn is important, particularly for first-time moms. “The good news is that there are many online options available to learn more about the different aspects of pregnancy,” says Dr. Croston. “That can include information on anything from the actual delivery, to Cesarean births and common post-partum experiences.” North Memorial Health offers several on demand, online courses that cover all the aspects of pregnancy and delivery, and can be accessed 24/7. “It’s really important for expecting families to have the education and support they need to prepare for labor and delivery,” he adds. North Memorial Health offers a virtual tour of the Family Birth Center at Maple Grove Hospital so customers can get a sense of the space and care they will receive, which includes spa-like private rooms designed to appreciate nature and promote healing. And watch out for a virtual tour of the Family Birth Center at North Memorial Health Hospital which is coming soon.
How can I be sure my baby and I will be safe during delivery and while I’m in the hospital?
North Memorial Health is taking extra precautionary steps to help expecting customers stay safe, including staff who are now wearing additional PPE including face masks and eye protection. “We continue to provide the highest quality of care to mom and baby while they are in our hospital and we are prepared to care for them no matter their needs.” Dr. Croston says. Disinfectant protocols and other safety measures are all followed based on the highest standards recommended by the CDC.
In addition, everyone admitted to the hospital is tested for COVID-19. “Practicing good safety and health measures can lower the risks of infection but if a mom or baby tests positive for COVID-19, we have the care plans and technology needed to provide them with excellent care,” says Dr. Croston. Should a baby require intensive care support for any reason, “we’ve launched our NICview camera program so parents can actually see their babies in the NICU when they’re not onsite,” he says.
As we continue to roll out processes that help maintain the health and safety of mother and baby, we also are looking at ways to shorten their stay, if possible, and get them safely back home. Of course, this happens only when we are certain that mom is medically ready to go home and has all the information needed to care for herself and her new baby.
What advice do you have for caring for my newborn? Can I breastfeed?
Dr. Croston refers to advice from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists which states that even mothers with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 can still breastfeed with proper safety measures like protective masks and good breast hygiene. In some cases, we may recommend using a breast pump so that baby can be fed by the bottle. Since moms may be asymptomatic, everyone should take precautions such as wearing a mask or cloth face covering and using proper hand hygiene when breastfeeding to reduce the chance of spreading the virus from mom to baby via respiratory droplets. “Of course, separation may be necessary for infants at higher risk of severe illness whose mothers are severely ill, and that might prohibit breastfeeding,” he says, adding that it’s important to talk to your doctor to determine the best approach given your unique situation.
“Getting baby off to a healthy start is important for their lifelong health. Follow your doctors’ advice post-delivery and continue all the good safety measures you practiced while pregnant,” says Dr. Croston, adding to “keep visits to a minimum and assess the risks carefully of seeing anyone that is not in the immediate household.” Dr. Croston adds this includes maintaining recommended pediatrician appointments and contacting pediatric clinics anytime there is a question or concern.
Having a new baby can be an isolating experience, even during normal times, he says, so be sure to stay connected (while staying safe) and pay attention to your own emotional needs as much as possible after the newest member of the family comes home.
The Good Doctor’s Tips for Having a Baby Now:
- Be vigilant when practicing safety measures such as washing your hands, cleaning common surfaces and limiting contact with people outside your household.
- Take advantage of virtual (online) classes to learn about labor, delivery and caring for newborns from the safety and convenience of your home.
- Review the safety practices of your provider during your hospital stay and determine who you would like with you throughout your stay.
- After returning home, take care of your newborn by limiting visits and continuing to practice good safety measures like wearing a mask and practicing hand hygiene while breastfeeding.
- As new parents remember to take care of yourselves as well – your emotional wellbeing can be just as important as your physical health.