Jennifer Hisdorf and her husband, Christopher, are expecting their first child on April 11, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Mt. Lebanon couple were recently told that only one person can accompany new mothers at St. Clair Hospital, where Hisdorf plans to deliver.
Their parents can’t wait in the hospital. None of their loved ones can visit the hospital to meet Christopher John Hisdorf Jr. after he’s born. Plans to hire a photographer to take photos of their newborn son have been scrapped.
“We wanted family, even if they weren’t there for the delivery, to see (Christopher) right after he was born,” said Hisdorf.
New rules for labor and delivery aren’t the only changes pregnant women face as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic.
Expectant mothers are coping with changes in clinic visits, in-person access to their doctors, canceled baby showers because of social distancing, and new guidelines implemented to keep themselves and their babies safe.
More changes and restrictions could be put into place before their due dates, adding anxiety, disappointment and sadness to what women expect to be a joyous time.
“I think the biggest concern is, because it’s so close to my due date and things change by the day, I don’t want my husband not to be able to come in.”
Dr. Kate Simons, a physician at Washington Health System OB/GYN Care practice, said the concerns expectant mothers are experiencing are understandable.
“It’s stressful to be pregnant in itself, and it’s stressful now with COVID. Combine the two, and it can be a scary time for women and their families,” said Simons.
She recommends women minimize their exposure to coronavirus by following social distancing guidelines, which call for staying six feet away from others, washing hands properly, and other steps. It’s critical, she said, to flatten the curve now.
Simons said physicians also are working to reduce their exposure to patients, too.
“I understand their fears, but I really hope they will be able to enjoy their pregnancies and welcoming their new babies,” said Simons. “We are doing our very best as physicians and nurses to provide our moms and newborns with the healthiest experience possible. We are doing everything in our power to keep everyone healthy and well.”
Because COVID-19 is a new virus, research on its impact on women is extremely limited. But initial studies from mothers who gave birth in China, Italy and the United Kingdom – who, by definition are considered high risk – have shown pregnant women infected with COVID-19 did not get significantly sicker than women who are not pregnant.
Additionally, COVID-19 does not appear to be transmitted from mother to baby because no virus has been identified in the placenta or amniotic fluid.
But, said Simons, “This is all very new, so we’re still learning.”
It’s critical, she said, to flatten the curve now to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Dawnalyn Rudzinski and her husband, Evan, of Bridgeville, are due with their second child, Oliver, on April 30. The pandemic has made this pregnancy starkly different from her first.
Rudzinski, who is going to deliver at UPMC Magee-Women’s Hospital, Pittsburgh, is doing telehealth appointments with her OB/GYN and was given a blood pressure cuff and monitor for those appointments.
Rudzinski’s daughter, Everly, was born at 35 weeks, and two weeks ago, at 33 weeks, Rudzinski went into pre-term labor, but was later sent home.
“I’d say the stress definitely impacted it,” said Rudzinski, who was picking up diapers at a Sam’s Club and found herself in the middle of a shopping frenzy. “I was definitely feeling stressed out.”
It’s been harder for her to enjoy this pregnancy.
“I’d say that, unfortunately, it takes away the excitement. With my last pregnancy, these last few weeks were exciting. We were counting down, envisioning when she’d come. With this one, it’s more fear over excitement,” said Rudzinski. “Will the hospitals start becoming overwhelmed when I need a room? Will they change their policy so that Evan can’t be there with me? I’ve definitely cried a lot. There are so many unknowns right now.”
Simons reassured women that hospitals – including Washington Hospital, which last year completed an extensive renovation to the obstetrics unit, now known as the CARE Center for Family Birth and Women’s Health – are doing everything possible to make sure maternity wings are safe for moms and their babies.
Maternity wards often are isolated from other areas of hospitals, with limited access.
“And, as an obstetrician, I’d have to say that when there are complications in pregnancies and deliveries, there’s no safer place to be than in a hospital,” said Simons.
Despite the uncertainties, and the disappointment that her family will not be able to visit her son soon after he is born, Hisdorf said she is excited about the impending arrival of her son.
“It’s been a lot of learning and a lot of adapting, but as first-time parents that’s probably what we’ll be dealing with,” said Hisdorf. “So I feel like we’re getting an early start on parenting.”