Giving birth in 2020? Here's what you still need to know about a pandemic pregnancy

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Young pregnant woman lying in her hospital bed during lockdown
Young pregnant woman lying in her hospital bed during lockdown

With the pandemic underway, a few adjustments are necessary when it comes to the protocol in private and public hospitals during the pandemic.

Parent24 reached out to several local hospitals to find out what moms can expect when they give birth in Level 1 lockdown. 

Private Hospitals 

Dr Charl Loggerrenberg, a general manager of Emergency Medicine for the Life Healthcare Group told Parent24 that, "patients returning to private hospitals for treatment will find themselves in an "obsessive infection control bubble" environment that is intended to keep them safer from the novel coronavirus than virtually anywhere else."

He says that the hospitals have paid close attention for their systems to ensure as heightened a state of safety for patients from the virus exists as possible.

He adds that Covid-19 shouldn't deter anyone from seeking healthcare.

When we enquired about the protocol to be followed by expectant parents during this time, Dr Loggerenberg suggested that pregnant mothers speak to their doctor, check their hospital's website for specifics, or call ahead if possible. 

Read: Can I be with my child in a Covid-19 quarantine facility, or in hospital?  

Safety protocols 

As much as patients have to adhere to certain rules and regulations during a hospital visit, pregnant women also have certain measures to follow during the pandemic to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Life Healthcare Private hospitals urge expectant mothers who will be giving birth in their hospitals to review the necessary in-hospital guidelines and the information available on their website.

Expectant moms can expect Covid-19 testing before admission. The pre-admission Covid-19 testing is introduced to identify if prospective mothers may be carrying the virus before arriving for their child delivery.

The recommendations from the SA Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for expectant mothers are followed and these include the following:

Covid-19 testing

Tests for Covid-19 will be done from 38 weeks gestation onwards if possible, at least 72 hours before admission.

Expectant moms are encouraged to self-isolate for at least seven days before to their expected due date.

Unexpected or unplanned admissions

In the event of an unplanned admission, the test for Covid-19 will be done immediately on admission.

In the case of a positive mother or a mother whose status is unknown - for instance waiting for results with an unplanned admission - hospital employees and doctors will wear protective equipment.

Also read: Baby due any day now? Here's everything you need to know

Maternity visitation 

Expectant mothers are encouraged to see the visitation policy, so that they are aware of what is expected of them and the people visiting them.

Additionally, they are urged to contact their hospitals directly to find out if there are any changes to these restrictions.

Most maternity visitation policies stipulate that during the Covid-19 pandemic, only the partner or father of the child will be allowed during child delivery.

During childbirth, the father is expected to wear personal protective equipment in the delivery room or theatre. Additionally, nurses will assist with the safe donning and doffing of PPE.

The duration of the visit will be limited to the labour and delivery or caesarean section until the mother is transferred back to the ward.

Thereafter, only the father or partner will be allowed visitation privileges for one hour per day during the postnatal period until discharged.

Screening for visitors

Just like all visitors to the hospital, the partner will be screened for any Covid-19 related symptoms at the entrance to the hospital.

Meticulous infection prevention measures will apply during the visit (hand sanitisation on entering and leaving the ward, surgical mask, maintain social distancing from other patients and employees, restriction to the designated visiting area).

The visitation policy states that should the expectant mother test positive for Covid-19, a different approach will be taken to try and prevent the spread of the virus.

In this case, spouses or partners will, regrettably, not be permitted to accompany her to the hospital for the birth.

"As the situation continues to evolve, we are frequently consulting with the government, our doctors and employees to ensure that our protocols and processes remain relevant to the needs of our patients," Dr Loggerrenberg added. 

Also see: Maternal and neonatal health at risk during pandemic 

Public Hospitals 

Different rules may apply if you're giving birth at a government hospital, so it is best to call ahead and find out what is expected of you before you go in - if at all possible.

Midwife Obstetrician Alida Mallum, at Mitchell's Plain Hospital, told Parent24 that mothers will be assisted by the nursing staff upon arrival.

Mothers' with any signs or symptoms of Covid-19 will be tested, and visitors are not allowed in the facility.

In general visiting hours at public hospitals are either no longer an option or are strictly limited, so it is best to call ahead and check with your particular hospital.

High risk patients 

If a pregnant woman is not a high risk patient she should deliver at local hospital or eHealth care center. If she has complications, then she will be referred to a more appropriate facility. 

For those who are booked at such a hospital, says a representative of Mthatha General Hospital, any patients with suspected Covid-19 symptoms are managed in isolation wards.

"If tested positive you will be delivered in an isolation ward for Covid patients. In each such hospital there is whole ward for Covid patients irrespective which other condition they have, for example Covid, and pregnancy, and a heart condition." 

A doctor from a specific department, such as the maternity department, will go and see maternity patients in the Covid ward. No visitors are allowed at all," she explained.  

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