Boost for expectant mothers and partners
Most women due to give birth in hospital will still be able to have their partners at their side when they are in labour despite the Covid-19 crisis, it was revealed yesterday.
The Bermuda Hospitals Board said last night that — as long as fathers or other supporters did not have Covid-19, were not suspected of having the coronavirus or were quarantined — they could be in the delivery room at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.
However, the BHB said partners would have to leave when mothers returned to the maternity ward two hours after the birth under restrictions imposed to fight the spread of the virus.
Lisa Blyden, the clinical manager of the maternity unit, added: “We have updated our guidelines to make the maternity department as safe as possible during the pandemic and minimise all potential risks to moms, babies, visitors and staff.
“This has been a hard decision to make. We truly feel for all our expectant moms who may not have the experience they would have anticipated up until a few months ago.”
Ms Blyden said the new guidelines also required telephone screening of fathers and others before arrival.
She added: “A person who has confirmed or suspected Covid-19 or is on quarantine will not be able to attend and, as only one support person is allowed to reduce the numbers and proximity of people during birth, we cannot accommodate doulas at this time.
“As a maternity team, we will do everything we can to be there for moms. Some people may feel that the social-distancing and shelter-in-place precautions are enough for them to be Covid-free, but the risks are great for even one person who is asymptomatic coming in contact with staff and other moms and babies.
“In other countries, the same difficult decisions have had to be made.”
Ms Blyden said the hospital's top priority was to ensure safety.
She told moms-to-be and partners: “We know there will be anxiety and concern and we will be there for you.
“Please know we will support you, keep you safe, and help you get home with your baby as soon as possible.”
She added: “If any expectant mom or support partner would like to talk through the process, they should not hesitate to call us.”
Vanessa Fine, 31, from Pembroke, who is due to have her second child by Caesarean section at the hospital on May 18, said she understood the need for precautions.
She and husband, Jason Boorman, have been isolated at home for the past month, along with their son, Landon, aged 4.
Ms Fine said: “We don't know the sex of our child. Like many others, I want to rejoice with my husband the moment my child is born, not be robbed of that experience and have us both find out separately.”
Ms Fine admitted the prospect of giving birth during the outbreak was stressful.
She said: “Obstetricians want you to stay calm — I have tried to, but it's hard to when you are in the midst of a pandemic and trying to grow a baby.”
Another expectant mother, due to have her second child in late June, said it was a low-risk pregnancy and she was prepared to have a home birth if it would reduce pressure on hospital staff.
The woman added: “I am aware and very respectful of the fact that nurses and doctors may be needed in other areas of the hospital more, or at the same time, as my child and I need them.
“I cannot help but wonder whether I might be better protected, supported and present less of a burden to the community's needs in a home-birth situation.”
Victoria Rodriguez, 34, gave birth to daughter Fiona at KEMH on March 17, after she went into labour at home. She was admitted to hospital through the emergency department because it was out of hours.
She said it was two days before the island had confirmed cases of Covid-19, but that she wondered afterwards if going through ER had put her at unnecessary risk.
Stephen Palmer, her husband, was at the birth and visited afterwards, but she was not allowed other visitors.
Ms Rodriguez said: “Some good things did come out of my days without visitors. I had wonderful bonding time alone with my daughter without distractions.”
Fiona Dill, a doula who acts as a birth companion for women during and after labour at KEMH, said she had already provided virtual services for one couple during the pandemic and had two more births scheduled.
She added: “The OBs have been comfortable with us being there remotely, just being able to be a whisper in the ear.”
Sophia Cannonier, a home birth campaigner, said she also offered virtual doula services, in hospital or at home.
Ms Cannonier suggested the island's obstetricians should have a “rethink” about home births and support women who would rather go through labour outside the hospital as the number of hospitalised cases of Covid-19 increased.
A BHB spokeswoman said hospital doctors and nurses could not assist at home births.
She explained that universal screening for Covid-19 was not available “therefore the home environment may also have exposure risks for the expectant mother and newborn to coronavirus”.
Stephen West, a paediatrician, backed the hospitals board and told parents-to-be: “With all of the infection control practices in place at the hospital, this is still the best and safest place to deliver your baby.”
• To read BHB's Maternity and Covid-19 factsheet, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”
• Women who go into labour need to call the maternity ward on 239-2016 to advise that they are on their way to the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. They and their birth partner will be screened for Covid-19 risk factors over the phone.
• Expectant mothers are allowed to travel by road to KEMH during the shelter-in-place lockdown.
• Mothers can have one support person at the birth, so long as that person has not tested positive for Covid-19, is not suspected of having the coronavirus or is not in quarantine. Doulas are not allowed as extra support.
• Women in labour should go to the emergency department and head for the security desk — not the emergency admissions desk or waiting area — to ask security to call the maternity ward. They and their partners should wear a mask and use hand sanitiser for cleaning hands upon arrival. They should wait to the left of the security desk for a maternity nurse to come for them.
• Hospital staff will wear personal protective equipment during labour and delivery and precautions will be taken with all expectant mothers in case they are asymptomatic Covid-19 carriers. Expectant mothers who have tested positive for the coronavirus will use rooms in the maternity ward reserved for Covid-19 patients.
• Partners must leave two hours after the birth when mothers are transferred from labour and delivery to their room on the ward.
• The hospital has free wi-fi so mothers can talk to family and friends on their mobile phones and devices. No visitors will be allowed.
• Parents can visit one at a time in the Special Care Baby Unit.
• Discharges will be “expedited if safe to do so” with most mothers able to go home two days after giving birth.