COVID-19 has brought a halt to our normal routines. Vulnerable people are encouraged to stay home. Essential workers are required to report to work as usual. Elective surgeries and procedures came to a stop at most medical facilities to not only help prevent the spread but to conserve highly sought after personal protective equipment.
One thing that cannot be stopped or put on hold is childbirth. When it’s time, it’s time. We cannot tell a fetus, “Hang in there until this pandemic is over.”
Obstetrics (OB) units have had to make changes to their care delivery models. Visitation policies in most hospitals around the country were modified to prohibit visitors except for emergent or end-of-life situations. For the leaders of OB units, it was a question of how do we support this laboring mother and still promote a healthy bonding experience for the family.
My facility decided to follow the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses guidelines and only allow one support person for the duration of the labor/delivery and postpartum period. While this seems harsh and not “family friendly,” it turned out to lead to silent benefits of COVID-19.
As you can imagine, grandmothers especially were not happy with the idea of staying home while their grandchildren came into the world. But what came next was beautiful.
Mothers bonded skin to skin with their newborns while dad held them both close. Mothers no longer felt the need to hurry up and get their makeup on for all the visitors’ pictures. Mothers who chose to breastfeed could do so in peace without visitor interruptions. Mothers could heal, and dads could learn how to swaddle and change diapers without grandma telling him how he was doing it wrong.
Becoming a new family or adding to their existing family is hard enough without added pressures and opinions from family members. With the new policy, parents could be parents and enjoy their bundle of joy in peace, even if it was just for a day or two. Many couples expressed their gratitude and enjoyment of this time together. In “normal” circumstances, new parents would not usually feel comfortable asking friends and family not to visit for fear of offending someone. So you see why these benefits will remain silent. A silent joy in the midst of global uncertainty.
Michelle Cash is the RN-BSN Program Coordinator at King University, Bristol/Knoxville, Tennessee.
Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. 2020. AWHONN COVID-19 practice guidance. awhonn.org/novel-coronavirus-covid-19/covid19-practice-guidance/
Centers for Disease Control. 2020. Personal protective equipment: Questions and answers. cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/respirator-use-faq.html
Centers for Disease Control. 2020. People of any age with underlying medical conditions. cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/groups-at-higher-risk.html