Control. It’s what we all want, especially during this unprecedented time and the continued spread of COVID-19. Add a pregnancy into the mix, and you also add more stress and many questions.
“Will my partner be able to come to the birth of our baby? Will you deliver me early to avoid the influx of COVID-19 patients? Is it even safe to have my baby in the hospital?”
As an ob/gyn and the director of obstetrical services at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, I have been talking to many pregnant patients over the last few weeks, trying to reassure them of all the measures being taken to ensure their safety as well as the safety of the health-care workforce. But five minutes of watching the news on COVID-19 and one story about New York City, and all the reassurance that left them feeling good 10 minutes ago is washed away.
I understand that the idea of coming to a hospital right now is terrifying. The last thing I want is for pregnant patients to be afraid to come here. Pregnant women need to know that hospitals continue to be a safe place for delivery. In fact, they’re still the safest place for delivery. It would be much more dangerous for a patient who is not a suitable candidate for an out-of-hospital birth to proceed with that option if it is not appropriate. The access to maternal and fetal monitoring, cesarean delivery, and obstetricians and pediatricians make in-hospital delivery safer for many.
Despite the value of being at the hospital for certain appointments and for delivery, hospitals around Philadelphia, including ours, are working to minimize the need to leave your home during the COVID-19 pandemic and to minimize risk. This includes innovative care delivery both leading up to the birth and during the fourth trimester — the first few weeks after a baby is born.
COVID-19 has supercharged the process of deploying new programs that can help minimize trips to the hospital or clinical practices while at the same time identifying who needs to come in to receive care. Before delivery, we are balancing in-person visits with telehealth visits and innovative digital tools to track patients’ health. Patients receive reminders to check and report their blood pressure throughout their pregnancy and will receive real-time feedback. If a blood-pressure reading is high, our care teams will automatically receive an alert and may reach out to the patient for further evaluation.
After delivery, patients will have access to a texting platform that allows them to ask questions, share concerns, and receive responses in real time. Both of these programs utilize technology and innovative ways to provide care safely at home while identifying women who need in-person care.
All new moms with pregnancy-related hypertension will continue to be enrolled in remote blood pressure management, a program that over the last four years has produced hard data to demonstrate that it is effective in helping clinicians safely manage patients from home and intervene proactively to avoid potential issues in the early postpartum period.
Hospitals are open and well-prepared for this crisis. We have been planning, training and simulating, and will continue to do so. We are ready to take care of you safely. Talk to us. We are here for you.