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Having a healthy, happy baby in these far from ordinary times

VIEWPOINT

As an OB-GYN, I’m hearing from many pregnant women who are concerned about staying healthy and having a safe delivery during the coronavirus pandemic. These fears are completely understandable. It’s common to feel nervous during pregnancy even in ordinary times — and these are far from ordinary times.

But the bottom line is the hospital remains an extremely safe place to have your baby. To date, we don’t know of a single case linked to Maui Memorial Medical Center Labor and Delivery. And not one of our health care providers or mothers has tested positive, nor have we had a positive mother in labor.

There are many ways the hospital staff is working to keep mothers and their babies healthy and safe.

First, it’s important to remember that Labor and Delivery is in a separate unit that’s isolated from other parts of the hospital. We don’t have specialists or floating nurses rotating in, and our team of dedicated doctors and nurses rarely go out onto other floors unless it is necessary to visit an OB patient in another area like in the operating room or Emergency Department. This reduces the risk of spreading infection considerably.

Aside from keeping everything disinfected and cleaner than ever, Labor and Delivery has implemented several new policies to protect mothers and babies from coronavirus.

These include new visitor policies. Before COVID, birthing mothers were allowed to have up to three support people in the delivery room, and as many visitors as they wanted to see after delivery. Now, each mother is accompanied by only one support person for her entire stay in the hospital, significantly limiting the number of people coming into the hospital from the outside community.

All patients and support visitors are screened for symptoms of illness, including a temperature check, before entering the hospital. They are given an additional assessment when they check in to the Labor and Delivery unit and are continually monitored throughout their stay in the hospital. Women with scheduled C-sections and inductions are tested for coronavirus before being admitted. Additionally, as of June 8, Maui Memorial Medical Center has initiated universal COVID-19 rapid testing for all patients admitted through the Emergency Department and all obstetrics patients. This rapid testing helps to identify COVID-positive patients who may not have any symptoms, which helps to minimize unnecessary exposure and provides additional safeguards for our employees, providers and patients.

Both the mother and her support person are given masks when they arrive and are asked to wear them at all times. We know it can be uncomfortable to wear a mask during labor, but we gently encourage her to keep it on if she’s able. Currently, all medical staff in the Labor and Delivery unit wear N-95 masks covered by surgical masks, as well as protective headgear and eyewear during deliveries and cesarean sections.

After birth, mother and baby room together — which has always been the ideal arrangement — rather than having babies stay in the nursery. We make every effort to maintain private rooms and work hard to discharge mothers as soon as possible and not have them stay in the hospital longer than necessary. That’s usually 24 hours for a vaginal birth and 48 hours for a C-section.

Finally, although we haven’t yet helped any mothers with coronavirus, we’re ready for them. We’ve converted three of our postpartum rooms into COVID-safe rooms, separated from the rest of the floor and equipped with HEPA air filters. If any mothers arrive who are confirmed or suspected positive, or test positive through our universal rapid testing at admission, they can give birth and receive postpartum care all in one room, without putting other mothers and babies at risk.

We know that some women who had been planning on giving birth at the hospital are now wondering if they should give birth at home. While we respect every woman’s right to decide for herself where to have her baby, we think it’s vital they have all the information they need to make the best decision for them and their baby.

That’s why the most important thing you can do if you’re feeling worried or unsure is to speak up. Start a conversation and bring up your fears with your doctor. By sharing information and having an open dialogue, you can make sure your concerns are addressed and come up with a birth plan that’s right for you and your baby.

* Dr. Stacy Ammerman is an OB-GYN for Maui Lani Physicians and Surgeons.

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