Should You Fear the Coronavirus While Giving Birth in an NYC Hospital?

Should You Fear the Coronavirus While Giving Birth in an NYC Hospital?

In the wake of COVID-19, New Yorkers have quickly had to adapt to a new way of life. From shuttering all non-essential businesses to limiting social contact as much as possible, navigating the new “normal” has been stressful, to say the least. With New York at the epicenter of the Coronavirus, concerns over the potential health risks carried by hospitals, as well as restrictions on attending deliveries, have led many parents to second guess their birth plans. 

The question remains – are NYC hospitals dangerous for mother and baby during this time?  No, say women’s health experts. Here’s why: 

It’s not necessarily better – or safer – to deliver somewhere else. Going to another hospital outside the city with an unfamiliar doctor isn’t necessarily the path to the best or safest outcome. NYC hospitals have dealt with the disease at its peak and understand how to protect and care for pregnant populations, working as a team to guide mother and baby toward a safe result.

As human beings, fear is such a powerful emotion and is known to cloud our judgment. “There are few things we value more than our kids and our mothers,” says Dr. James Gohar, OB/GYN at Forest Hills Medical Services. “Labor and delivery is a sacred place and it is something that is very, very protected. Trading known medical risks for unknown medical risks when there are so many tools that hospital systems have, particularly in a delivery ward, that really protect babies and moms dramatically, is usually not the safer decision.” 

Your chances of suffering complications during labor related to COVID-19 are low. When evaluating risk, consider this data on Coronavirus’s impact on labor and delivery, provided by Columbia University Medical Center. Just 1.9% of women have symptomatic Coronavirus in labor, in comparison with the 2.4% of women who suffer life-threatening complications during labor unrelated to COVID-19 (based on the most recent City Department of Health data). Not to alarm you, but the chances of you experiencing Coronavirus-related risk is lower than the possibility of other known risks. 

New laws provide that pregnant individuals and their support partners have rights and protections. The COVID-19 Maternity Task Force, appointed by Governor Cuomo to examine the impact of COVID-19 on maternity and provide a set of initial recommendations to improve maternal and child outcomes, have expanded maternal care laws in the following ways:

  • Mandated testing of all pregnant New Yorkers and all support partners. Pregnant individuals can be tested during pregnancy and one week before their estimated due date, or upon admission if the second test is not conducted one week before delivery.
  • Healthy, designated support partners can accompany the mother for the duration of her stay, including labor, delivery, the postpartum period, and recovery, as medically appropriate. Doulas are considered an essential part of the support care team. 
  • Additional birthing surge sites are to be established immediately to meet community needs during emergency situations.

Hospitals are operating as close to normal as possible. While COVID-19 has tested NYC’s hospital infrastructure and its ability to navigate the challenges of delivering maternal care during this time, new systems have been put into place to ensure minimal impact on labor and delivery services. Patients who test positive for Coronavirus are isolated during labor to reduce risk to other patients and staff members, and mother and baby are monitored under a different set of protocols.

Bottom Line: NYC hospitals and birthing facilities remain safe delivery settings that have been trusted for years and tested in recent months. As hospitals move into the next phase as New York passes the viral peak of COVID-19, switching to a radically new birth plan strategy, such as delivering at home, can be a risky move. It comes with its own restrictions and drawbacks, such as limited access to emergency resources if complications arise.  

To discuss your birth plan, identify reasonable alternatives, and schedule a consultation with the OB/GYNs at Forest Hills Medical Services, call 718-897-5331.