How will COVID-19 affect my hospital visits and prenatal services?

With the extensive news coverage, it is easy to get worried about the danger of visiting hospitals. Perhaps you are worried for yourself or a pregnant friend, or maybe you are planning a pregnancy and want to know more beforehand. Based on current evidence and guidelines, we will outline how COVID-19 may affect your hospital visits and prenatal services. In short, you can be reassured your hospital will ensure the best and safest care possible.

 

1. Am I putting myself and my baby at risk by going to the hospital?

In short: current evidence suggests that it is not more risky for pregnant women and their babies to visit hospitals than for other people.

Explanation

It is important to note two things in this regard. Firstly, with regards to risks to your baby, the current evidence suggests that the coronavirus cannot spread from you to your baby during pregnancy [see Q&A on risks to baby]. Secondly, with regards to vulnerability, current evidence suggests that you are not more likely to get infected with the coronavirus or to have more severe symptoms than other people visiting a hospital. Hence, the available evidence suggests that it is not less safe for pregnant women and their babies to be in hospitals (or any place for that matter) than for other people.

 

2. How will COVID-19 affect my hospital visits?

In short: checkups, scans and other appointments will likely be affected by COVID-19 in some way. It is advisable to directly discuss this with your healthcare professional.

Explanation

Whether it is possible to visit hospitals for checkups, scans and other appointments depends on your country, region or even individual hospital. Therefore, it is advisable to directly discuss this with your healthcare professional to find out which options are available to you [1]. Physical meetings with your healthcare professional will likely be less frequent than before and where possible routine monitoring may be conducted through other means [1]. Hospitals in many countries have restricted visitor numbers, which may entail that birth partners are not able to attend routine antenatal appointments such as scans with you. Hospitals know the importance of continuing maternity care, and they are rapidly planning and adapting their maternity services to provide safe care while minimising the risk of spread of COVID-19 [2].

 

3. How will COVID-19 affect my antenatal classes?

In short: there are many online services available online antenatal classes and counselling.

Explanation

Physical antenatal classes have been cancelled in many countries, but organisations like the international Positive Birth Movement and the UK-based National Childbirth Trust (NCT) have started offering various online classes and other resources [3, 4]. There are also several online services available for mental health during pregnancy such as the Maternal Mental Health Alliance [5]. These form an important aspect of preparations for giving birth so it is advisable to participate in these from a safe home environment, if you possibly can do so.

 

4. How will COVID-19 affect my delivery?

In short: your healthcare professional will ensure you can deliver under the best and safest circumstances possible. Current guidelines suggest that provided proper infection controls are in place at least one person can be present with you during labour.

Explanation

Because of the extensive news coverage, it is easy to get carried away by stories about bed shortages or the danger of visiting hospitals [6]. However, as mentioned above maternity care is a key priority of hospitals, and you can be sure your health professional is ensuring you receive the best and safest care during labour as possible. This may mean that you have to perform labour alone in order to minimise the risk of infection, but current guidelines suggest that provided proper infection controls are in place at least one person can be present with you during labour [7, 8]. In addition, because the date of delivery can be more or less anticipated your healthcare professional may ask you to start working from home a minimum of two weeks in advance of the expected date of delivery [8]. In short, you can expect your healthcare professional to ensure you can deliver under the best circumstances possible, with ensuring your and your baby’s health as the highest priority.

 

References

  1. UNICEF. Navigating pregnancy during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Published 11 May 2020 [internet]. Available from: https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/navigating-pregnancy-during-coronavirus-disease-covid-19-pandemic (accessed on 24-05-2020)
  2. Cheyne H. Pregnant during the coronavirus crisis? Don’t panic. The Conversation. Published 31 March 2020 [internet]. Available from: https://theconversation.com/pregnant-during-the-coronavirus-crisis-dont-panic-135108 (accessed on 24-05-2020)
  3. Positive Birth Movement. Courses. No date [internet]. Available from: https://www.positivebirthmovement.org/courses/ (accessed 24-05-2020)
  4. National Childbirth Trust. Courses & Workshops. No date [internet]. Available from: https://www.nct.org.uk/courses-workshops (accessed 24-05-2020)
  5. Tubb A. COVID-19 information and support from Maternal Mental Health Alliance members. Maternal Mental Health Alliance. Published 12 March 2020 [internet]. Available from: https://maternalmentalhealthalliance.org/news/mmha-members-offer-reassurance-amid-coronavirus-outbreak/ (accessed 24-05-2020)
  6. Chapman G. Pregnant in a pandemic: how will coronavirus affect me and my baby? The Guardian. Published 25 March 2020 [internet]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/mar/25/pregnant-during-coronavirus-pandemic-how-will-it-affect-me-and-my-baby (accessed 24-05-2020)
  7. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Coronavirus infection and pregnancy. Published 12 June 2020 [internet]. Available from: https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/guidelines/coronavirus-pregnancy/covid-19-virus-infection-and-pregnancy/ (accessed 14-06-2020)
  8. Boelig R.C, Manuck T, Oliver E.A, di Mascio D, Saccone G, Bellussi F, Berghella V. Labour and delivery guidance for COVID-19. Am J Obstet Gynecol MFM 2020. doi: 10.1016/j.ajogmf.2020.100110.