FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – The COVID-19 pandemic has changed what it’s like for mom and baby post-delivery in the maternity unit and the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU.
“It’s difficult. I mean, a birth is supposed to be a celebration, family and friends want to come and see the baby, but we also know that every single person who comes into the hospital could potentially be an asymptomatic carrier of COVID or could be presymptomatic,” said McLeod Health neonatologist Dr. Douglas Moeckel.
Usually dad, grandma and others can file in to welcome the new baby into the world.
But now, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced some NICUs and nurseries across the country to limit visitation even for the baby’s parents.
“Our goal from the beginning of this pandemic has been to really decrease exposure to help with social distancing as much as possible here in the hospital, but also to provide the important mother baby dyad protection,” said Dr. Moeckel.
At McLeod Health in Florence, Dr. Moeckel says the mother’s relationship with the newborn is essential, so they got approval for each mom to have two wristbands, one for herself and another for someone else to visit for support, like dad.
“As the hospital restricted visitation, we really fought hard to preserve the mother’s right to be there with the child,” he said.
McLeod health staff are also encouraging FaceTime calls and the use of social media for families to help welcome in the newborns.
“I’ve been in several rooms where grandma’s been on the phone with FaceTime, and that’s part of my discussion is how does the rest of the family know that the baby’s here, how are you celebrating the birth, and I usually apologize, because I feel bad that family can’t be here, but it’s really for the best of all of us,” said Dr. Moeckel.
“We’ve had very positive conversations with them,” said McLeod NICU Nursing Director Nicky Littlejohn, on how families are handling the changes. “Certainly it’s difficult for them to not be able to be here, but they understand and they have been respectful of what we’ve asked of them in terms of visitation.”
Although they’re not testing newborns for the virus routinely, they are testing symptomatic moms. If mom tests positive, at that point is when they’ll separate her and her baby.
“The concern is more of those respiratory droplets that she may have after delivery of the baby getting on the baby,” said Dr. Moeckel.
Dr. Moeckel says they’ll continue to follow recommendations from the hospital’s infection control team, the CDC, and the governor’s office to decide when to get things back to normal.