Giving birth in a pandemic: Hospitals step up restrictions

BOSTON — As expectant mothers worry about giving birth during the coronavirus outbreak, hospitals are implementing new restrictions and taking extra precautions to keep moms, babies and staff safe.

Nicole Herzberg of Hanover gave birth to her son Caleb on March 23 at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, with her fiance Cong Duong at her side.

Duong was the only person who could accompany Herzberg during her Cesarean section and throughout her stay, as the hospital is now only allowing only one support person to be with a woman during her labor and throughout her hospital stay. The support person is not allowed to leave the hospital and return, and they must confine themselves to the room as much as possible.

No other visitors are allowed. So Herzberg has been showing off her new baby through pictures, videos and social media.

Caleb needs more time in the Special Care Nursery to monitor his heart and oxygen, but Herzberg hopes to take him home next week. Until then, each time she enters the nursery, her temperature is taken, she is screened for any coronavirus symptoms and she is required to wear a mask.

"He was two days old when they took him to the Special Care Nursery. So that was when he really started to open his eyes. So he's really only seen myself and my fiance with a mask on," Herzberg said. "I got my forehead kisses and cheek kisses in the first two days I had him. And now it's - I don't want to lean in and kiss him, because I've walked through the halls of the hospital with a mask on."

But Herzberg understands the restrictions are necessary to keep her family safe; she appreciates the steps the hospital has taken.

Dr. Kimberly Dever, Chair of South Shore Hospital's Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, told Boston 25 News Thursday, despite expectant mothers' concerns, they are still giving birth in the hospital setting. On one day in the past week, 13 babies were born, more than the average eight or nine a day.

While pregnant women and babies do not seem to have a higher rate of infection, the hospital is taking as many precautions as possible to keep mom and baby safe, Dever said.

"We have had to put in place many restrictions around visitors, and certainly that is so challenging as a physician," Dever said. "We really want to be family-friendly. However, given the current situation, we have to be very cautious."

A handful of new moms at the hospital have tested positive for the virus, but no one has shown life-threatening symptoms, nor have they passed the illness to their babies, Dever said Thursday.

Because some pregnant women could have the virus but be asymptomatic, Dever and her colleagues are discussing testing every expectant mother. That effort would require access to enough testing kits and personal protective equipment.

"It is something we are considering here in the next few weeks as our numbers start to increase," Dever said. "Right now, we treat every patient as if it's a patient who could have Covid, meaning the healthcare staff in the room are all wearing protective masks, the respirators. So we have done certain measures to protect ourselves just in case a person is asymptomatic."

In the meantime, Dever is reassuring expectant mothers that they can feel safe giving birth at South Shore Hospital.

“I would encourage moms to feel very comfortable coming here, or hopefully to any hospital to have a baby,” Dever said. “We certainly have put in place some measures that at times are challenging for families. But if you ask why did we do that, it’s because we absolutely want to make sure that we are keeping the mom, her new baby and our staff as safe as possible at all times.”

Download the free Boston 25 News app for up-to-the-minute push alerts

>> Complete local and national coronavirus coverage here


- Massachusetts Coronavirus Information

- Boston Coronavirus Information

- Follow us on Facebook and Twitter | Watch Boston 25 NOW

- Download our free apps for your phone and smart TV