Expectant mothers planning to give birth at two leading New York City hospital systems will not be able to have spouses, partners, midwives or doulas present, despite a mother’s birth plan. This leaves pregnant women anxious, according to The New York Times, who first reported this story.
Hospital networks NewYork-Presbyterian and Mt. Sinai Health have limited their visitor policies to ban family members, spouses and birth coaches from delivery rooms in an effort to further reduce the spread of the coronavirus in medical settings.
Mt. Sinai Health announced the new regulations on Monday night, according to the Times. They are set to implement on Tuesday.
Lucia Lee, a spokesperson for the hospital system, reportedly said that “We do not take this decision lightly, but these are unprecedented times that require unprecedented steps to protect our patients, their families and their new babies.”
Similarly, NewYork-Presbyterian stated that “no visitors, including birthing partners and support persons are permitted for obstetric patients. We understand that this will be difficult for our patients and their loved ones, but we believe that this is a necessary step to promote the safety of our new mothers and children.”
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These strict rules come as the New York State Department of Health issued guidelines that recommend one support person present “throughout labor, delivery, and the immediate postpartum period” as the state’s Department of Health considers it “essential to patient care.”
The guidelines do state, however, that the selected support person must be asymptomatic for COVID-19 infection and ideally undergo screening by hospital staff.
While some patients understand the new rules, there has been strong backlash following the announcement of the two hospital’s stringent policies. Jessica Pournaras, a New York City-based doula, created a petition asking Governor Andrew Cuomo to review the hospitals’ COVID-19 protocols.
“Fundamentally, risks for the people laboring alone will increase substantially. Not only can partners and spouses provide physical and emotional comfort during labor and postpartum, they are also essential in alerting staff when something has gone wrong and the laboring patient cannot notify nurses themselves, like in the event of an eclamptic seizure or a fainting episode. Timing is critical in these cases and monitors can be unreliable,” the petition reads.
Other New York City hospitals, such as the Metropolitan Hospital in East Harlem and Northwell Health system still allow a woman in labor to have one visitor. New York University Langone Health limits this to partners parents, and grandparents, noting that "doulas may not visit," according to The Cut.
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