Inspira Medical Center Elmer, part of Inspira Health, is proud to announce that it has achieved the highly prestigious international Baby-Friendly designation by Baby Friendly USA for the second consecutive term. Baby Friendly USA is the organization responsible for bestowing the Baby-Friendly designation in the U.S.Read More
If you can count backwards, you know that babies born in the new year of 2021 were conceived during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic and the economy have caused a predictable decline in birth rates. However, some couples remain optimistic about the future, and some have as much, if not more time to, well, "be together," so let's just say babies are still being born.
If you just found out you're expecting or you're further along, you're counting down the days until delivery with all the typical joys and challenges of being pregnant along with the added stress of things like social distancing and daily news about surge rates or vaccine timelines. While we can't be sure when things will change, we can help by sharing what you need to know before your little one joins you in this "new normal."
"Being pregnant already requires being hyper-aware of the body for physical and physiological changes," said Neely Elisha, D.O., a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist at Inspira's new East Vineland office. "And now, there is this added layer of monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms and being vigilant about ensuring the safety of their soon-to-be newborn."
In early September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released information stating that pregnant people may experience severe illness from COVID-19 as opposed to non-pregnant people. Yet, despite this new data, there are still ways to ensure a healthy and strong pregnancy.
Put yourself first
Right now, the most important thing is to ensure you are mindful of your own mental and physical health. And that means fortifying yourself against COVID-19.
"When it comes to taking preventive measures against COVID-19, it comes down to upholding the same rules you've heard for months: wear a mask, wash your hands and practice social distancing," said Elisha. "But, for those who are pregnant, they need to take these precautions to the next level. Really, they need to limit their interactions to only those they live with and if they must work or go out for other reasons, avoid sharing space with anyone not wearing a mask."
When it comes to increased risk for hospitalizations, Elisha says she is most concerned about pregnant women with health conditions. "It is especially important that a pregnant woman with a health condition like diabetes or high blood pressure talk with her healthcare providers about her individual risk and precautions to protect herself from COVID-19," says Elisha.
Meet with your health care team
"Although social distancing has proven to be a tried and true way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, it does not mean that you should skip any prenatal visits. Meeting and communicating with your health care provider are the best ways to ensure you are taking all the right steps until your delivery date," said Elisha.
Elisha explains that Inspira follows strict guidelines in all offices to make sure everyone who comes for in-person care is safe. "Our practices include mask-wearing, cleaning protocols and ensuring waiting rooms aren't crowded, if they are used at all," says Elisha. "Additionally, I use some virtual visits when appropriate for OB and GYN patients. As a result of all these efforts, fewer women report delaying prenatal care due to concerns about COVID-19."
Health care providers are aware of the apprehension surrounding office visits. Meeting with your health care team in-person is likely strongly recommended by your obstetrician, who is taking every precaution possible to ensure their patients' safety.
Prepare for a safe but different birth experience
Hospitals and health care systems have implemented strict precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus within health care facilities.
While your quality of care will not change at Inspira medical centers, it will look a little different. Inspira Health has a strict mask policy for all employees and visitors. For example, "if you go into labor now, expect to see your doctors, midwives and nurses in more protective equipment than you are used to," says Elisha. "While this may be scary at first, understand that these practices will help keep you and your baby safe."
Stay in the know
As you get closer to your due date, check with your doctor or midwife for updates on state guidelines and hospital policies that may impact your birth plan and experience. At the time of publication, "women delivering at Inspira's three maternity centers are able to have one partner (support person) and a doula with them. However, other visitors are not permitted," says Elisha.
Staying up to date on all the latest information and data about the spread and management of COVID-19 is one of the best practices you can take throughout the remainder of your pregnancy.
"The CDC has reported that some newborns have tested positive following their delivery, but fortunately their symptoms have been mild or nonexistent," said Elisha. "This new year holds a lot of uncertainty, but there is hope for reducing infection rates and learning more about this devastating illness. So, the best thing you can do is continue to be vigilant about keeping up with the latest developments."
Although this may not have been the way you would ideally want to welcome your new family member into the world, know that you are not on this journey alone.
For more information about how to prepare for after your delivery date, be sure to download Inspira's postpartum handbook, "Life as a New Parent: What You Can Expect in the Postpartum Period." You can make an appointment with Dr. Elisha or another Inspira medical professional online or at (888) 312-4784.