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Pregnant in the Time of Coronavirus: Will We Have to Give Birth Alone?

By Kate McDonald

I have been up since 3 am.

Unfortunately, this isn't a completely unusual occurrence; no one really warns you about pregnancy-induced insomnia.

But last night, I broke the number-one rule of being anxious while pregnant and looked at my phone in bed, just in time to read the latest news stories about the decisions some New York and Los Angeles hospitals have made to ban support partners from accompanying pregnant women into the building. This means that women will be alone as they give birth and for their first few days as a new mother.

Welcome to pregnancy in the age of the coronavirus.

This thought completely terrifies me. And yet, I understand that hospital staffs face impossible decisions as they try to weigh their options in protecting both patients and front-line healthcare workers during a pandemic.

Editor’s Note: Since we originally published this story, the New York Times reported on Saturday, March 28 that the State of New York Governor's Office will issue an executive order "requiring all hospitals in New York, both public and private, to comply with the latest guidance from the New York State Department of Health... which notified hospitals on Friday that they were required to allow one person to accompany a woman throughout labor and delivery," therefore reversing a ban on support partners that some private New York hospital systems had instituted earlier in the week.   

As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds in Minnesota, certain details in our stories about the impact of the virus may become outdated within hours, days or weeks of our publication. For the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus in Minnesota, please visit the websites for the Office of Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan or the Minnesota Department of Health.

So I did what any normal pregnant woman would do when racked with worry for more than 5 hours. I called my OB/GYN.

Dr. Alison Buck is a physician at Associates in Women's Health in The Twin Cities, and I wanted to ask her to explain how the developing situation in New York and Los Angeles might impact hospitals across the country. I also craved some inside information about what triggers hospitals to make such dramatic decisions and whether or not she believed this could happen here.

Of course, we also wanted her to give us some hope.

After all, if a hospital decides to restrict support partners, then pregnant people might be able to choose a different birth plan than the one they originally settled on.

In the coming weeks, I will also be reaching out to other birth professionals, including my doula, as well as midwives and a birth center owner. I also plan to share another interview with Dr. Buck so that she can answer some frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and pregnancy.

And finally you are curious about what giving birth alone in a pandemic is like, please check out Katie's Story.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a Q&A of Pregnancy, Childbirth and Breastfeeding available here.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States has a pregnancy/breastfeeding and COVID-19 page here

ACOG Practice Guidelines: The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published a practice advisory here.

More from our "Pregnant in the Time of Coronavirus" series here.

As Minnesotans looks for ways to show their support for healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, we took a look back in time to celebrate the contributions that four women - all named Ruth - made to the state's public health system. 

Like so many Minnesotans, Twin Cities PBS Producer Luke Heikkila found himself suddenly camped out at his dining-room-table-turned-desk after a work-from-home mandate. But then he realized something: His neighbors were spending a lot of time outside. So he decided to check in with them to see how they’re faring in this time of COVID-19.

Because the COVID-19 pandemic is an evolving issue in Minnesota, Twin Cities PBS is producing a weekly show, Coronavirus: An Almanac Special, where we share practical information from trusted medical sources so all Minnesotans know how to prepare for the coronavirus.

Kate McDonald Read More
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