/ by Peter Giannone, MD; John O'Brien, MD; Dolores Polito, APRN, CNM
In this rapidly evolving situation, we are constantly learning more about the new coronavirus. Today, we hear from three experts: Dr. Peter Giannone, chief of Neonatology; Dr. John O’Brien, director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine; and Dolores (Dee) Polito, director of the UK Midwife Clinic. They speak directly to our patients who are pregnant or have a newborn, providing useful information on how they are keeping their patients safe and helpful guidance for those who have COVID-19.
Measures in place to keep patients safe
At our OB/GYN clinic, we are limiting waiting room occupancy and changing schedules to minimize the load on particular clinics to better distribute the volume of patients. We are exploring UK TeleCare options when we consider it a safe option.
At the UK Midwife clinic, we have implemented a "Text Upon Arrival" system for patients to text us when they arrive in our parking lot. We then text them when their exam room is ready and they avoid sitting in the waiting room. This social distancing initiative seems to be appreciated by our patients who want to avoid congregating in a waiting room and our staff have implemented this new practice seamlessly.
Additionally, when appropriate, we will provide prenatal care and education via TeleCare visits. Our options are evolving, but we are working hard to continue caring for our patients while also keeping them safe.
For COVID-19 positive patients, we will be recommending that the mother express breast milk (after appropriate hand hygiene) and have designated healthy caregivers feed this milk to the infant.
Breast pumps and components should be thoroughly cleaned in between pumping sessions using standard policies (clean pump with antiseptic wipes; clean pump attachments with hot soapy water).
Infection risk for pregnant women, newborns
The risk associated with COVID-19 for pregnant women and newborn children is largely unknown, but medical experts suspect symptoms of COVID-19 may be more severe in pregnant woman compared to non-pregnant women. Social distancing is our best strategy to minimize the spread of the disease. Pregnant women, particularly near the end of pregnancy should stay home and away from others as much as possible.
Based on small studies, the novel coronavirus does not appear to readily pass from mother to baby, but some cases of newborn infection related to in utero transfer have been suspected. More research is needed and any pregnant mother with COVID-19 needs to be followed closely for the duration of the pregnancy. If the mother is infected late in pregnancy, there is ongoing risk for the baby to become infected after delivery. We have specialists in neonatology, pediatrics, and pediatric infectious disease to provide the best care for the newborn and keep everyone in the family safe. We are well-equipped to offer multi-specialty care for both mom and baby.