NYC Hospital Have Begun Banning Visitors During Childbirth

by pregnancy journalist
Photo: JGI/Tom Grill/Blend Images/Getty Images/Tetra images RF

In New York City and the surrounding region, now considered the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, the pandemic has already altered many aspects of life, like people’s ability to work or leave their homes. It seemed inevitable that childbirth practices would be affected too, and now a local network of hospitals has announced a new set of precautionary measures, including banning visitors while admitted patients are in labor.

Dr. Dena Goffman, chief of obstetrics at Columbia University Medical Center, said during a leadership briefing for the NewYork-Presbyterian health-care system on Sunday, “For the time being, we really do need to exclude all visitors, including partners, for women admitted in labor.” She said that the new directive was a “very difficult decision and not one taken lightly.”

NewYork-Presbyterian will also begin testing all their admitted patients in labor for COVID-19. Goffman said this decision was made after several admitted patients with few or no COVID-19 symptoms eventually tested positive for coronavirus. Goffman added that some women have slipped through their facilities’ COVID-19 screening process because many symptoms experienced during labor, such as fatigue and shortness of breath, “mimic some of the symptoms of COVID-19.”

Testing patients in labor would also give doctors an opportunity to isolate newborns who may have been exposed to the virus, warding off potential outbreaks in neonatal ICUs and well-baby nurseries.

The new policy is currently at odds with World Health Organization guidelines issued last week on the matter, which state that “all pregnant women, including those with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infections, have the right to high quality care before, during and after childbirth” and that this includes “having a companion of choice present during delivery.” On Wednesday, the New York State Department of Health suspended all hospital visitation “except when medically necessary (i.e. visitor is essential to the care of the patient) or for family members or legal representatives of patients in imminent end-of-life situations.” NewYork-Presbyterian is reportedly exploring alternatives to help loved ones participate virtually.

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