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Delivering twins during the pandemic: What’s changed in area hospitals

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Parents delivering a new baby this season say the experience is markedly different than in years past, specifically when it comes to visitors in hospitals.

Some hospitals in hot-spot areas like New York City are asking mothers to deliver with just hospital staff around her and no visitors. In central Indiana, the major hospital networks are allowing one visitor in the maternity wing for each labor and delivery patient.

IU Health, Ascension St Vincent, Franciscan Health, Community Health, Riverview Health, Hendricks Regional, Hancock Regional and Johnson Memorial Hospital all allow one visitor. IU Health and Franciscan Health also allow one labor coach or one doula as part of the patient’s care team.

Ashley Guffey gave birth to twin girls Piper and Harlow on Tuesday. She delivered at St. Vincent Women’s, and just dad, Josh Maloyed, was allowed to be there.

“It’s been really hard for my mom and by day two, I was ready for my mom and my dad, and we just miss our kids. We can’t wait to introduce our kids to their sisters and they would definitely have been here,” Guffey said.

“We’ve done a lot of Facetime video calls,” said Maloyed. “It’s definitely not the same.”

While the visitor changes were tough, these parents say they get it. They appreciated the extra effort from the hospital staff.

“Nobody mentioned [the pandemic]. It’s obvious it’s going on but it was never talked about,” said Guffey. “It was kind of like I was in a bubble. Like, it doesn’t even exist for me right now.”

Guffey explained she and Maloyed were not expected to wear masks during her delivery, but everyone else in the hospital was masked. Maloyed was screened at the door to the hospital every time he left and reentered for a fever and cold/flu symptoms.

“I think that has affected some patient’s birth plans and wishes for their delivery but the vast majority of patients are very understanding and do think it’s a measure to protect them and their baby and they’re very accommodating,” said Dr. Angela Silber, maternal fetal medicine director at St. Vincent Women’s Hospital.

She says the changes are temporary and reflect both what is known about the virus and pregnant women, and what isn’t.

“We have been fortunate to not have seen the severity and the pregnant women affected as much as the elderly,” said Dr. Silber, referencing studies that do not show pregnant women have an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 or an increased chance of developing critical symptoms. Studies also show the virus does not transfer to the baby via amniotic fluid or breast milk.

She says she and the staff strive to keep the maternity floor with the same feeling it has always had.

“It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with obstetrics a long time ago. It’s always a festive place and life is celebrated but at this point, we have to think of protecting the babies and protecting the moms,” said Dr. Silber.

Dr. Silber says right now, St. Vincent is not testing all mothers for COVID-19 but they hope to soon.

If a delivering mother does test positive for the virus, she would be separated from her newborn, according to physicians at Ascension St. Vincent. She must have no fever without medication, improvement in respiratory symptoms, and two negative tests 24 hours apart to lift isolation precautions.

Officials also say the mother and newborn can go home but have to be separated by at least 6 feet until the above criteria are met. If mom is breastfeeding then she has to be masked if she insists on breastfeeding herself and then has to turn over care to a healthy caregiver once feeding is over. She can pump breast milk or use formula and a healthy caregiver can feed the baby via a bottle, according to hospital officials.