Are you expecting? We asked Renown how they’re dealing with births amid COVID-19

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Expecting new mom Nattalie Mitchell shares her fears about giving birth during the COVID-19 crisis. Reno Gazette Journal

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Reno-area delivery wards are taking a number of steps recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to hinder the spread of the COVID-19 virus to families. 

Notably, the maternity wards at Renown and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Centers are limiting labor and delivery rooms to only the mother and one birth partner. 

Natalie Nicholson, Director of Nursing for Women’s Services at Renown, said between 350 and 400 babies are born each month at Renown.

She spoke to the Reno Gazette Journal about preventing exposure to COVID-19 in the maternity ward.

The interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

What happens when any expectant mother is admitted to the hospital for labor and delivery? 

Any patient coming into the hospital is allowed one support person. We’ve seen that it helps with birth outcomes. Both the patient and the support person have to go through a screening process, which includes a set of questions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If for some reason a support person answers yes to one of the questions, they will be asked not to come with the patient. If they are suspected to have COVID-19, they will be asked to leave the hospital and self-isolate.

Has any mother had to deliver without her partner? 

We’ve had one family that had a partner with respiratory issues. Of course he was upset to not be with his wife, but he was very understanding. The mother decided to bring her mom. It’s a really hard situation for a lot of mothers, but all of our families have been very appreciative of us keeping them safe. We understand this is a very scary time, but we are trying to make sure that we are giving the best birth experience possible.

What about staff? Do the staff in the labor and delivery ward and post-partum ward work in other parts of the hospital? 

All staff are asked to go through a screening process before they begin their shifts. The staff in labor and delivery stay in labor and delivery and the staff in post-partum stay there. Staff are wearing masks at all times for safety precautions. 

What happens after the baby is born? 

Once they deliver, mom and baby together they move to post-partum. Those are lockdown units. We aren’t allowing any unnecessary traffic into that area. No visitors and we’re not allowing in and out (of the room). Before families could go to the cafeteria, take a walk. It’s heightened “rooming in” 24/7 until release. Everything comes to baby in that room, and when a nurse goes in, we do everything in that hour, versus going in at 10 a.m. and going back in later at 11 a.m. We’re also not bringing babies into the newborn nursery. 

What happens if mom or baby show signs of respiratory issues? 

We have a designated area for mother with COVID-19 who’s going into labor. If the patient (mom) is positive, we will have a conversation with the mother. We’ll explain the risks and benefits about separation of mom and baby. The CDC recommendation is to separate mom and baby. If mom agrees, we’d move the baby into an isolation area after birth. It’s completely up to the mother though on what she wants to do. Depending on the circumstances of the birth, and their health, the mother and baby would then be discharged together, or separately depending on the circumstances, and they would self-isolate at home. (Discharge time would also vary depending on circumstances.)

How have births been different since the changes in policy?

Generally, hospitals have a no video recording policy, but if a patient decides, she can use Skype, Facetime or other video. We’ve had some virtual parties in the rooms. Families are probably upset too that they’re not there for their grandchild’s birth, or their daughter’s first delivery. 

Any other changes that expectant mothers and their families should be aware of?

Obviously, we’re not allowing in-person tours of the labor and delivery rooms, so we’ve developed a virtual tour and a power point. Because of the guidelines, we have canceled all of our support groups but we’re offering virtual groups. Lactation consultants are still available. Once home, make sure that people are not coming over with respiratory issues.

Jenny Kane covers arts and culture in Northern Nevada, as well as the dynamic relationship between the state and the growing Burning Man community. She also covers the state’s burgeoning cannabis industry (Check out her podcast, the Potcast, on iTunes.) Support her work in Reno by subscribing to RGJ.com right here

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