The hospital experience for pregnant patients is different during the pandemic. Without visitors, new parents can focus even more on bonding with their new baby.
Before the pandemic, being pregnant and anticipating a birth was a joyous time filled with planning, decorating, baby showers, and spending time with family and friends. But now planning for a birth may seem daunting and just plain frightening to some expectant women. But this doesn’t need to be the case. Encourage pregnant patients to make events meaningful in the world of physical distancing, for example by having a virtual baby shower and attending Zoom childbirth classes.
A different hospital experience
Talk with your patient how their hospital experience will look different during the pandemic. Reassure them that it’s still the safest place to deliver. For the birth, most hospitals are limiting expectant mothers to one support person. Many new mothers have expressed an appreciation for having an intimate experience with a partner, family member, or friend. There’s also no pressure to have visitors while recovering from childbirth.
Due to COVID, many want to keep the hospital stay short and sweet. If medically appropriate for both mother and baby, obstetrics and pediatrics are allowing early discharges. But encourage patients not to rush—both mother and baby need to be doing well, recovering as expected, and comfortable with all the care the baby needs, especially for first time moms. Tell pregnant patients to take advantage of the expertise available from nursing education and lactation support. Make sure feeding is well established, weight loss isn’t excessive, and jaundice levels aren’t concerning.
Discuss with your patient how to resist the temptation to have visitors over to greet the newest member of the family. Even in non-pandemic times, it’s appropriate to be protective of newborns. Infants in the first month of life are immunocompromised and it’s long been the advice of pediatricians to avoid large crowds during that time. This is especially true in our current environment. People will need to be placated with pictures and Zoom visits.
But it may be very helpful to a new mother, and her other children if she has them, to have help at home with everyday chores while tending to a new baby and recovering from childbirth. A grandmother or other family member may be vital in easing the transition in the household. If the helper is coming from out-of-town, make sure they have safe travel plans and a period of quarantine before joining the nuclear family’s “social bubble.” Even if the support person is local, a period of quarantine prior to the birth is a good idea.
More bonding time
The upside of bringing a baby home during the pandemic is that partners may be working from home and more available to help with the care of the baby and the household. I’ve heard many mothers describe how wonderful it is to have their partner with them, helping when able, and bonding more with the baby. There’s freedom in not being stressed by visitors or feeling obligated to travel to see family. If the new mother’s partner doesn’t work at home, or if she’s single mother, the time together without the pressure of social obligations is still a unique opportunity for bonding with the new baby.
This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.