“My husband is no longer able to come to the hospital at all,” Houben, 35, tells The Post. “He can drop me off and pick me up, but that is it. Pretty crushing news to get.”
Pregnant women are panicking about giving birth in the midst of a pandemic. They can’t get into appointments, are fearful of getting their newborns sick, and now, worst of all, they may have to labor alone.
Houben, 35, found out Sunday night that she’s on her own for her C-section, which is scheduled for Wednesday at Brooklyn Methodist Hospital due to the baby’s breech presentation.
Houben’s life had already been upended. At 38 weeks pregnant, she’s been walking alone from Carroll Gardens to appointments a mile away because it “felt safer” than public transit, and has told her parents, who were set to fly in, to cancel. Choosing just one person in the delivery room — midwife or husband — would be difficult, she thought. Now, per new hospital policy, she can’t have anyone in the delivery room — or even the waiting room — at all.
Not all hospitals have adopted such strict rules yet, although the situation is changing daily. Currently at NYU Langone Health, no visitors are allowed for office visits or outpatient ultrasounds. For women in labor, one visitor — a family member only — is permitted. There, doctors are hoping to minimize exposure by recommending healthy women do routine prenatal visits via telemedicine.
“[Giving birth] is not an elective procedure, we can rarely predict it well,” says Ashley Roman, MD, an obstetrician at NYU Langone Health. “We’re trying to minimize the risk of exposure, so we are offering patients who normally would be seen in the office to be seen by video. If it’s a run-of-the-mill pregnancy, we are extending that option, but it does not work for everyone. High-risk patients still need to be seen in person.”
Roman says that the hospital is carefully screening patients for signs of COVID-19 and funneling those who may be infected into isolation rooms away from healthy moms-to-be and newborn babies.
Unfortunately, almost every sentence of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s information on COVID-19 and pregnancy starts with “we do not know,” says Roman.
One thing the hospitals can control is how long the patient stays after delivery. Roman says, “If a patient is doing well, we will recommend they go home” sooner than they normally would. This can be days, or even just a few hours, she adds, and helps to minimize the risk of exposure.
At NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, all pregnant women who are admitted to deliver (either in labor or for induction) are currently being tested for COVID-19 regardless of symptoms, according to hospital reps. Some recent studies have found no transfer of the virus from mom to the fetus.
Less hospital time is good news for mom of three Amy Craig, 38, of West Point, NY, who’s 37 weeks pregnant and set to give birth around April 10 at St. Luke’s Cornwall in Newburgh. Craig, who has three girls (ages 9, 5, and 20 months), originally had planned on family coming to town like she did for the previous births. Her kids were scheduled to be in the waiting room ready to meet the newborn just hours after the arrival.
That’s no longer the plan now that the hospital has instituted a “one support person policy.”
“The whole visitor thing is so crazy,” Craig tells The Post. “Am I going to be doing this on my own? Who’s going to watch my girls? My husband has to.”
Craig wonders whether or not her husband will have in-and-out privileges. And she’s worried about the timing of when she goes into labor: She hopes it’s during the day so she can “go in the front” and not at night when she’ll “have to go through the ER” — which she thinks increases her risk of exposure to the virus.
Stephanie Arnot, 38, a Park Slope mom of a toddler, is 34-weeks pregnant and scheduled for a C-section at NYU Langone Health on April 30.
“My mom and my sister were planning to be here for three weeks to help my [husband and I] take care of my youngest after my surgery, but now that they can’t come, it’s becoming a reality that I might be alone [giving birth]. That’s the worst-case scenario.”
Some women, whose due dates are slightly further out, have fled the city entirely now that NYC is considered an epicenter of the virus with more than 5 percent of global cases.
Amanda Baudier, 36, an executive at the vegan meal-delivery service, Sakara Life, and mom to a 4-year-old son, is due to give birth around May 18 at NYP/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, but took off for Maryland just before schools closed, so that her parents could help with child care. Her husband is still stuck in New York working.
“We packed a week’s worth of clothes,” Baudier tells The Post. “We didn’t think we’d be here that long. But I called my obstetrician Monday and was basically told to stay away from New York…things are looking worse and she said if there’s any way you can stay out of New York and not be here it is a good idea. I was not expecting her to say that.”
Baudier is now looking into birthing centers near Annapolis.
“The world has completely changed in 10 days,” she says.
After previously suffering two miscarriages, Sarah Larson Levey, 33, founder and CEO of Y7 yoga studios, isn’t taking any chances. She and her husband took off for Michigan early last week, and although she was due to give birth around June 7 at NYU Langone (“I still hope to do so,” she says), she’s secured a doctor in Michigan just in case.
“I had a little scare a couple weeks ago with some fluid leakage, and knowing how underserved the city is in terms of hospital beds and doctors, we felt my chances may be better in Michigan if I need to get emergency care for any reason,” Levey tells The Post.
Cyndi Ramirez, 34, founder and CEO of Chillhouse, is 22 weeks along and “didn’t feel safe” entering her third trimester in the city, so she and her husband took off for Orlando where they have family nearby. She tells The Post she still hopes to give birth in NYC, but isn’t returning “until the hospital system isn’t overwhelmed.”
Meanwhile, those who can’t flee the city, like Houben, must stick with their birth plans, no matter how many curveballs they’re thrown.
On Wednesday, she and her husband will take a rental car to the hospital. “It’s one of the few things,” she says, “[I can] hopefully control.”