December 6, 2021

Virus a stress for those awaiting new babies

Metro Creative Graphics

When Benjamin Dodge gets home from work, he strips in the garage, tosses his clothes into the washer and starts it before he makes his way inside after a day as a Cortland firefighter.

He’s taking extra precautions since the outbreak of coronavirus. His wife is due to give birth any day now to their first baby, a boy who will be named Quentin.

“Just in general, we’re limiting our exposure to the outdoors,” said Theresa Dodge.

Theresa, a nurse at Guthrie Cortland Medical Center, was taken off the front lines of treating people a couple weeks ago and now answers phones, instead.

While she’s ready to give birth and excited to meet her baby boy, she said the outbreak of the virus has made giving birth a little more complicated.

“It definitely has added stress to the whole situation,” she said. “All my friends are in health care, so that changes any sort of plans I had with people visiting and seeing the baby. I actually have family that is in health care, so that’s a debate of ‘do I let my in-laws come and see their new grandbaby?’”

But the upside to being a nurse is that she has more inside information than most women do. In fact, the questions and concerns Dodge raised helped the hospital’s maternity unit staff decide what it needed to tell other women who may be giving birth.

“We know that people are anxious,” said Olga Levitskiy, the obstetrics nurse manager for the hospital. “Based on what she shared and some of the things we thought about sharing with patients, we actually called people who are due within the next two weeks and went over the information.”

Levitskiy said all moms and their support person, whether that’s the father or someone else, must wear a mask in the hospital at all times “regardless of their status.” All hospital staff or health care providers must also wear a mask when in the mother’s room.

The expectant mother is allowed one support person in the room, as long as that person isn’t sick or showing symptoms.

“We do check everybody’s temperature when they arrive, that does include the support person,” Levitskiy said.

They also ask four questions, said nurse Bailey Riley:
• Do you have a cough?
• Are you short of breath?
• Do you have a fever?
• Have you traveled outside Cortland County?

If the support person shows symptoms or has the virus, the mother can name another support person. Theresa Dodge’s backup plan is to have a doula, a trained companion who helps women through pregnancy.

“The support person, if they come, they have to stay here with the mother until they are discharged,” Levitskiy said.

She said an expectant mother can also have a nurse from the maternity unit step in as a support person.

Coronavirus and newborns

• Mother-to-child transmission of coronavirus during pregnancy is unlikely, but after birth a newborn is susceptible to person-to-person spread.

• A very small number of babies have tested positive for the virus shortly after birth. However, it is unknown if these babies got the virus before or after birth.

• The virus has not been detected in amniotic fluid, breastmilk, or other maternal samples.

— Source: CDC

No other visitors are allowed in the hospital, even after the baby is born, Riley said. That policy extends to the rest of the hospital, except in certain circumstances like a patient who is dying or a pediatric patient.

If the mother tests positive for the virus, the hospital will follow the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to separate the mom
and baby.

“That is if the hospital is able to make these accommodations and if the mother agrees to that,” Levitskiy said. “Most moms would like to stay with their baby. In that case, we would try then to keep them in the same room but at least 6 feet apart and perhaps have a physical barrier.”

If the mother needs to nurse or wants to hold the baby, the staff will ensure the mother is masked and has washed her hands extremely well.

“It is extremely important for them to be together however, we don’t really know a lot about this as the whole world is learning about this new virus, so we would like to make sure we’renot hurting the baby at the same time that we are helping the baby,” Levitskiy said.

Levitskiy said at the end of the day it’s about protecting the parents and child.

“It’s a scary time and a lot of questions are unanswered at this time, so we just wanted to make sure that patients knew that we are there for them and we are doing everything we can to keep them and their baby safe,” Levitskiy said.