Giving birth during COVID-19? Here’s what to expect at the hospital…

Lockdown regulations might ease later this week due to the decrease in COVID-19 infections, but strict hospital policies will still remain in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

Dr Stefan Smuts, Chief Clinical Officer of Mediclinic Southern Africa says they still allow partners to be present at the birth, but he says there are exceptions to these circumstances.

This is what you can expect to happen at the hospital:

  • Before being admitted, you’ll have a COVID-19 test if there is time.
  • On the day of admission, both mom and partner will be screened. If both the mom and partner are well with no COVID-19 symptoms and if you haven’t had contact with anyone who has COVID-19, your partner will be allowed to be present for the birth.
  • Both the pregnant mom and partner are required to wear a cloth mask in keeping with national legislation.
  • Once the above admission screening process is complete, the delivery will continue following the relevant pathway of obstetric care.
  • Depending on the hospital setup your partner may be able to stay for the duration of the birth or visit daily.

Top Tip: If you are due soon, phone the hospital where you are giving birth a few days prior to admission to ask how the admission process will work.

ALSO SEE: Maternity hospital policies during COVID-19 

What happens if a mom-to-be tests positive for COVID-19 when being admitted?

“Should the mother have tested positive or have any symptoms of COVID-19 at the time of the delivery admission, standard COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures and precautions will be implemented and the obstetric care process will continue routinely,” says Dr Smuts. If your partner is well at the time of the delivery with no respiratory symptoms, they will be allowed to stay for the delivery only, but not thereafter or visit in the postnatal ward.

However, says Dr Smuts, if the partner is unwell, they will not be allowed to stay for the birth.

Can my baby stay in my room if I tested positive for COVID-19?

Yes. Dr Smuts says when the baby is born, and if the mother is well enough, they still encourage rooming in and breastfeeding with meticulous handwashing and the wearing of an appropriate mask.

ALSO SEE: COVID-19 can’t be transmitted through breast milk 

Are visitors allowed in the maternity ward?

“Only the partner is allowed to visit once a day as long as they pass the daily screening check and are well,” says Dr Smuts.

“As the trends across the different Southern African regions shift, this process will continue to be reviewed and updated by Mediclinic,” he adds.

Can Dad help mom get dressed and carry baby down to car when she is discharged? 

“At Mediclinic, we have not stopped the visiting of partners throughout the pandemic and they may fetch the mom and baby. However, at each facility this will depend on their individual setup and day to day COVID-19 status,” explains Dr Smuts.

Can parents visit their preemies in the NICU?

Dr Smuts says neonatal units still allow both mom and dad to visit as long as they visit one at a time. “They have to be well and symptom screened every day. A mother who has tested positive for coronavirus and her partner will not be allowed to visit the neonatal unit for 10 days from her positive test and they must be symptom free before they’ll be allowed to visit again.”

More about the expert:

Dr Stefan Smuts holds a Bachelor Degree in Medicine (M.B.Ch.B) from the University of Stellenbosch. He is also a registered member of the Health Professionals Council of South Africa. Learn more about Dr Stefan Smuts here.

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