Expectant mothers like Chloë Sevigny are speaking out after a new ban on birthing partners in hospitals came down in New York City on Monday. Ever since the novel coronavirus spread to the US, we’ve experienced dramatic changes in our everyday lives. Many governors have closed schools, issued shelter-in-place orders, and all of us have been encouraged to practice social distancing.
It’s a difficult time for healthcare workers and those who need care including expecting parents. Many pregnant women and their partners have had a birth plan in place for months. However, those plans are being dashed by the impact of COVID-19 and the strain it’s having on the entire healthcare system.
The most drastic measures we’re seeing are happening in New York City which has become the epicenter of the virus’s spread in the US. Hospitals there are implementing rules to help stop the spread of the disease. The New York Post was first to report that Presbyterian Hospitals in the city have banned birthing partners from the delivery room.
New Guidelines in Some New York City Hospitals are Angering Expecting Mothers.
According to their reporting, all thirteen cooperating hospitals have banned not just birthing partners, but all visitors for adult patients from their hospitals. In updated guidelines from New York-Presbyterian Hospitals, they outline the new policy “At this time, no visitors including birthing partners and support persons are permitted for obstetric patients.”
“We understand that this will be difficult for our patients and their loved ones, but we believe that this is a necessary step to promote the safety of our new mothers and children,” they explained.
Many Feel that Birthing Partners are Essential to Comfort and Care for Mothers During Delivery.
The policy outlined by the hospitals is at odds with other public health guidelines like those provided by the New York Department of Health and the World Health Organization. Both of their guidelines stipulate that one person should be admitted to support a mother giving birth and extend care after birth. The NYDH’s guidelines state “For labor and delivery, the Department considers one support person essential to patient care throughout labor, delivery, and the immediate postpartum period.”
Further, the guidelines state that mothers can choose any person they would like for support including extended family members and even doulas. The one caveat is that the person must pass a coronavirus screening and they must not be sick or have recently been sick.
The WHO has similar guidelines that state that patients need “a safe and positive childbirth experience,” which includes, “having a companion of choice present during the delivery.”
#COVID19 Update: March 22, 2020— NewYork-Presbyterian (@nyphospital) March 22, 2020
The new changes to our visitor policy will go into effect on Monday, March 23, 2020 at 7am. To learn more, please visit: https://t.co/WWAk38Ch15 pic.twitter.com/6cmObRKCaD
The guidelines presented on social media by New York-Presbyterian were met with a slew of comments from worried expecting parents fearing that the policy would impact their childbirths.
Actor Chloë Sevigny, 45, reacted to the news about hospitals banning birthing partners in a post to social media. The New York-based actor is due to give birth to her first child any day now and found the new policy “very distressing.” She wrote, “I hope all expecting families are finding some calm. Today’s news in NY was very distressing for all.”
Healthcare Professionals are Urging Hospitals to Take Collaborative Approaches Rather Than Restrictive Ones.
Romper spoke with Christoper Zahn, MD, who is the vice president of Practice Activities for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. He said that he understands that new preventative measures are required by healthcare providers, “to implement additional infection prevention control protocol, as well as other procedures to maximize the capacity for patient care and safety,” however, he urges them “to consider innovative solutions and localized, collaborative approaches that ensure laboring patients have the support and stability they need through this chaotic and stressful time.”
“We understand that these are extraordinary times and that hospitals are working hard to maintain a safe environment for all their patients with enhanced infection control measures,” Dr. Zahn says, adding that “in addition to regular nursing care, continuous one-to-one emotional support provided by a partner or support personnel such as a doula is associated with improved outcomes for women in labor.”
Petitions from Expecting Parents and Concerned Healthcare Professionals Have Are Already Collecting Signatures.
A Change.org petition was started on Monday and has already received nearly half a million signatures to change the new guidelines and allow a support person to accompany people giving birth. The petition asserts that the ban would “increase maternal and infant mortality.”
“Not only can partners and spouses provide physical and emotional comfort during labor and postpartum, they are also essential in alerting staff when something has gone wrong and the laboring patient cannot notify nurses themselves, like in the event of an eclamptic seizure or a fainting episode,” petitioners argue.
The Ban Might Be Stoking Fear and Anxiety.
Additionally, fears of catching the novel coronavirus and anxieties about an overextended healthcare system are causing more people to consider homebirths. People have been contacting doulas and midwives to recalculate their birth plans and avoid hospitals altogether.
Unfortunately, many mothers are confronting a new reality. Even celebrities like Chloë Sevigny are feeling the stress of the moment. While banning of birthing partners is not widespread at the moment, things can evolve rapidly during this crisis. We suggest reaching out to your doctor and care team to discuss your options and the best ways to keep expecting mothers, birthing partners, newborn babies, and families healthy.