Pregnancy During a Pandemic: What You Need to Know

pandemic pregnancy
Stock photo courtesy of Josh Willink.

No one knew what to expect in 2020, including expecting mothers. When the novel Coronavirus began to appear at the end of last winter, medical offices and hospitals worked to address how they would visit their patients. They scrambled to find ways to keep quality care and routine visits safe for their patients. Telemedicine quickly took place instead of in-office doctor visits. And moms-to-be found creative ways to stay healthy and connect with one another.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, pregnant patients have faced significant challenges,” said Dr. Alex Peahl, M.D., MSc, OB-GYN at Michigan Medicine Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital. “Like many others, pregnant patients have faced economic hardship, social isolation, and loss of loved ones during this difficult time, creating elevated levels of stress and psychosocial challenges. Unique to pregnancy, patients have had to balance social distancing and avoiding viral exposure, with the need to receive routine prenatal care. We have worked at U of M to ensure our patients have access to increased psychosocial support through programs like Stay Home, Stay Connected (online support group) as well as transition care to virtual visits where possible to decrease exposure.”

Healthy at Home

Maternity care providers had plans in place to offer more telemedicine options to their patients before the pandemic. Their ideas began in an effort to improve prenatal care access in a safe and convenient way.

“We have ensured patients have access to a home blood pressure cuff through their insurance or donations so that we can deliver the same quality of care in the office or at home. We also have developed additional online resources, including a website, handouts, and videos, so patents can access high-quality information before and after their visits,” Dr. Peahl said.

New Protocols for Office Visits

“To keep patients safe, we adopted a new model of care that includes in-person visits for appointments where in-person services (like exams, laboratory tests, or vaccinations) are needed, and virtual visits for other appointments.” Dr. Peahl says, “This helps patients to maintain social distancing while also receiving high-quality prenatal care.”

Dr. Peahl also noted that offices follow CDC guidelines to minimize risk exposure.

“When patients come in for visits, we have robust protocols based on recommendations from the CDC in place to ensure patients are safe, including screening each patient when they enter the building for symptoms, maintaining social distancing in waiting rooms, masks and hand hygiene for everyone, and rigorous cleaning protocols.”

Special Delivery

What changes can moms expect when it comes to labor and delivery at local hospitals?

“Overall, labor and delivery is business as usual for us and we are ensuring patients’ safety and preferences are the guiding principles of the birth experience,” Dr. Peahl stated.

“To keep patients safe and ensure a healthy workforce, we have limited the number of visitors and ask that patients and their support people wear masks while in the hospital. We additionally test every patient and her baby throughout her admission. We are using rigorous protocols for masks, hand hygiene, and social distancing to keep everyone safe.”

Stay Home, Stay Connected

To help patients feel supported, the OB-GYN department at University of Michigan Medicine created Stay Home, Stay Connected. Stay Home, Stay Connected is an online group for pregnant and postpartum patients to share their experiences. The website also offers online wellness classes and group check-ins. This is done with other moms who are at similar points in their pregnancy.

“This unique inter-professional program includes OB/GYNs, midwives, Family Medicine Physicians, psychiatrists, and social workers to provide patients with education and supportive services throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period,” Dr. Peahl said.

For more information on Stay Home, Stay Connected, visit the website or email them at virtual_prenatal_support@med.umich.edu