Women who are pregnant during this trying time are feeling vulnerable because of the threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Those who are due to give birth are especially worried that they might catch the virus when they go to the hospital during labor.
A local obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN), who knows government health policy but is not authorized to speak on an official capacity, tells SmartParenting.com.ph that if you are not a COVID-19 patient, a patient under investigation (PUI) or a person under monitoring (PUM), the protocols for labor and delivery are still the same as before. However, the hospital will take extra precaution upon admittance — like doing an interview, checking your temperature, and looking out for symptoms — to ensure your safety.
What to expect when giving birth during COVID-19
Here are some things you should expect when giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic:
1. You will be advised to go to the hospital only for emergency cases or when you’re about to give birth.
Assuming that you are in regular communication with your OB-GYN, it is advised that you go to the hospital only when you are about to give birth to lessen your exposure. According to a statement by the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society (POGS) and Philippine Infectious Diseases Society for Obstetrics and Gynecology (PIDSOG), “Although physiological changes during pregnancy predispose a pregnant woman to viral infections, currently there is no evidence that pregnant women are more susceptible to COVID-19 infection. However, based on limited data, pregnant women may be considered at higher risk of severe illnesses or mortality compared to the general public.”
As you approach your due date, watch out for the warning signs of labor: regular contractions, your bag of waters breaking, bloody discharge, and decreased fetal movement. (Read here to know when you should be heading to the hospital.) If you have preexisting conditions, your OB-GYN should have been duly informed. “It would alert her as to when you should be going to the hospital,” the OB-GYN tells Smart Parenting.
If you are in regular contact with your OB, they should be expecting you in the hospital where you are scheduled to give birth. Walk-ins might find it difficult to get admitted, as most hospitals are crowded and taking precautions against COVID-19.
According to an infographic uploaded on the Department of Health’s (DOH) Facebook page, pregnant women can give birth in the following health facilities licensed by the DOH and accredited by PhilHealth:
- - Birthing facility in the health center or municipal/rural health unites
- - Private lying-in clinics with a licensed midwife, nurse, and doctor
- - Infirmaries
The DOH stresses that it is safer to give birth in health facilities than at home.
2. Hospital staff will be wearing personal protective equipment.
Do not be alarmed or worried if the hospital staff attending to you is wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE) — they are just being diligent and cautious. However, the OB-GYN that we talked to notes that this is still dependent on the availability of PPEs as even private hospitals are finding it hard to procure supplies.
It would also be helpful for you (and for them) if you take precautionary measures when you go to the hospital for admittance: wear a mask and observe social distancing while inside the facility.
3. You will be allowed a companion.
It will depend per hospital, but most will only allow you one legal companion. They might not be allowed in sterile areas like the labor room, delivery room, and operating room.
In the delivery room, expect only essential personnel inside. According to the latest guidelines from the POGS and Philippine Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine, “unnecessary health care personnel in the room should be minimized.”
As for visitors, it will be dependent on the hospital’s current protocols. In a recent Smart Parenting article, Cristalle Belo, who gave birth a couple of days ago, was not allowed to have visitors.
4. If your childbirth goes well, expect your hospital stay to be short.
According to the OB-GYN that we spoke to, pregnant women who give birth via natural spontaneous delivery (NSD) will be discharged after 24 hours. Those who give birth via cesarean section will be advised to go home by Day 2 or 3, depending on their condition.
The COVID-19 pandemic may be causing you to worry and stress, but be assured that hospitals are prepared to care for pregnant women especially in emergency situations. As part of the vulnerable population, the OB-GYN we spoke to stresses that pregnant women should stay at home as much as possible to limit their exposure. “This is the best protection that we can give you and your baby,” she says.
“Be in constant communication with your obstetrician when warning signs are observed. We will tell you when you need to be seen at the hospital. It would also allow us to prepare for your arrival,” she adds. “We appeal to you to always be honest. There are also hotlines of different institutions you can call. Please follow the protocol as issued by DOH and your local government. This way, we save you, and you save us.”
For more stories on COVID-19, click here.
*This story originally appeared on Smartparenting.com.ph. Minor edits have been made by the Preview.ph editors.