Healthcare facilities limit maternity patients to one visitor

VIDEO: Healthcare facilities limit maternity patients to one visitor

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The coronavirus pandemic has caused hospitals to limit the number of people a mother can have by her side during her labor and delivery.

Summerville Medical Center is one of many healthcare facilities across the Lowcountry limiting maternity patients to just one visitor, at this time.

Officials said the restrictions are in place to protect patients and staff.

Charleston Birth Place has also restricted mothers to just one support partner during the birthing process.

However, officials have seen an increase in transfers to the alternative facility that includes a staff of certified nurse midwives.

Mothers are concerned about the potential spread of COVID-19 within a traditional hospital setting, according to Lesley Rathbum, the accredited birth center’s owner and director.

Meanwhile, visitors are being restricted entirely in two of New York’s busiest hospitals, forcing pregnant patients to endure delivery alone. The state has almost half of the nation’s more than 65,000 coronavirus cases.

Officials said Summerville Medical Center could move to similarly heightened restrictions if cases rise in the Lowcountry.

“It will depend on the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] guidance based on the number of cases in our area and the amount of risk in our area,” Dr. Beth Cook said. “It could potentially come to that, but at this point in time…we feel like having that one support person is valuable for the patient.”

Charleston Birth Place officials said they would not move to eliminate the singular support partner they currently allow.

“As long as the mom stays comfortable and calm, her pain level is also going to be much lower. So, that person, that’s why they are so important to the birth process,” Rathbum said. “It’s not just I want a friendly face there to hold my hand. She actually needs this person there to help her have a successful birth for her and her baby.”

A petition to the governors of New York and New Jersey and to the mayor of New York City has garnered more than half a million signatures as of Thursday.

It shames the region’s major hospitals for forcing mothers to labor and give birth alone.

“Fundamentally, risks for the people laboring alone will increase substantially. Not only can partners and spouses provide physical and emotional comfort during labor and postpartum, they are also essential in alerting staff when something has gone wrong and the laboring patient cannot notify nurses themselves, like in the event of an eclamptic [sic] seizure or a fainting episode. Timing is critical in these cases and monitors can be unreliable,” the petition stated. “We know the hospital system is overwhelmed in this crisis. However, the burden will only be increased by banning support people from Labor & Delivery. We must ensure no one gives birth alone. We must ensure the maternal mortality rate does not increase during this time.”

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