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HomeWorldWomen in New York are delivering babies alone as there is no...

Women in New York are delivering babies alone as there is no hand to hold in hospitals

Tight restrictions on visitors, even for those giving birth, are one of many dramatic measures New York hospitals have taken to prepare for the crush of incoming Covid-19 patients.

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New York: Natalie Chap wanted a better childbirth experience the second time around. During her first delivery, in 2017, she spent the first two hours of labor in a hallway, gripping onto a wall for support. It took seven hours to get an epidural and nurses misplaced her blood work. This time, she hired a doula so she wouldn’t have to advocate for herself in the system alone.

“I’m not doing that to myself again,” she said—except, she is. New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center, the hospital where she plans to deliver her baby in April, is this week starting to prohibit any visitors for those giving birth. Mount Sinai announced a similar rule. Chap won’t get to bring her doula, or her husband—the child’s father—with her. She wonders if he will meet their baby for the first time in the street outside the hospital once Chap’s discharged.

“Obviously it’s terrible,” she said. “I think it’s going to have a lot of really bad ramifications.”

Tight restrictions on visitors, even for those giving birth, are just one of many dramatic measures hospitals in New York and elsewhere have taken to prepare for the crush of incoming Covid-19 patients. New York Presbyterian hopes the policy will limit the spread of the coronavirus among women, their babies, and health-care workers. Hospital staff will test every pregnant woman entering the ward for Covid-19 and give the women masks to wear through labor, in addition to limiting anyone but hospital personnel in the room.

But women like Chap think that creates other potential dangerous situations: If something goes wrong, they won’t have anyone to call for help when a doctor or nurse isn’t in the room. Laboring women, like many Americans, are facing the realities of an already overwhelmed health-care system, one that is asking patients to trade in one kind of health risk for another.

Evidence suggests that “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” said Dr. Chris Zahn, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s vice president of practice activities.

The New York State Department of Health recommends one support person be allowed into labor and delivery. But those are guidelines and hospitals can set policies they deem as safe.

In correspondence with patients New York Presbyterian explained why it no longer thinks having visitors is in the public’s best interest. “Due to the contagious nature of this virus, a number of factors were considered in making this heartbreaking, but necessary decision, even a basic bodily function (such as a cough or a sneeze) by an infected birthing partner could pose a potential threat to maternal-fetal welfare across our department.”

Over 300,000 women have signed a petition to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio protesting the policies. The petition, started by doula Jessica Pournaras, argues that partners and spouses are “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. Timing is critical in these cases and monitors can be unreliable.” A group of New York City midwives has also come out against the move, arguing that it will increase complications from home births.

Meanwhile, some pregnant New Yorkers are making other plans. Megan Davidson, who runs Brooklyndoula, has already had two clients opt for a home birth in order to have support during labor. That won’t work for everyone as she says there are “very few” home-birth midwives in New York City, and some women have risk factors that make a hospital a safer place to give birth.

Another six have fled the city, Davidson said. “I have a number of clients for whom it is an intolerable and unacceptable situation to end up being alone during their birth and they will do whatever they can to avoid that situation, they are lucky enough to have the privilege.”

Davidson, for her part, is shifting to virtual work—something she has never done before. One couple giving birth in a hospital that only allowed one support person opted to have her join them by phone and video chat throughout labor.

“Our work is so routinely physical and intimate, we are with people at these very intense, vulnerable moments in people’s lives,” she said. “Being virtual with them at these moments, certainly there’s an aspect of that’s missing.” –Bloomberg

Also read: COVID-19 impact in India: A look at the statistics, the science and the reality




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