Expectant parents, physicians, navigating fast-changing guidance on COVID-19 and pregnancy

The COVID-19 pandemic is upending the birth plans of expectant parents and forcing hospitals and physicians to quickly adapt to keep their patients safe. In Greater Boston, major hospitals now require all patients who arrive in early labor to take a coronavirus test, whether or not they have symptoms.

This effort was accelerated after a study of two hospitals in New York found that 13.7% of the 215 women who delivered babies in late March and early April had asymptomatic cases of COVID-19.

Neel Shah, research associate in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the Delivery Decisions Initiative at Ariadne Labs, said in an April 28, 2020 WBUR article that these findings make a strong case for testing all delivering patients, but that limited capacity makes this a challenge.

In an interview with WBUR in March, Shah described the many additional challenges now faced by expectant parents and their providers, such as virtual prenatal visits, protecting mothers and newborns from the virus during and after delivery, and the need to remain strictly distant from relatives after the birth.

“Every couple days we learn new information,” Shah said. “I’ve never been so dependent on such shaky data.”

Speaking to nervous expectant parents, he said, “concern is productive and panic is not.” He added, “I’ve never been more proud to be part of the health care system than I’m a part of right now. Everybody is doing an extraordinary job of keeping people safe and providing good care.”

Read the WBUR articles:

Major Boston Hospitals Now Require Virus Testing For Pregnant Patients Arriving To Give Birth

Harvard OB-GYN: In Fast-Changing Landscape, Much To Learn About COVID-19 And Pregnancy

Read additional articles quoting Shah on pregnancy during the pandemic:

A Chaotic Week for Pregnant Women in New York City (New Yorker)

How COVID-19 Complicates Pregnancy — Even if You Don’t Have the Virus (Fatherly)

New York State Will Allow Birthing Partners In Delivery Rooms Despite Coronavirus Concerns (WNYC)

What Coronavirus Means for Pregnancy, and Other Things New and Expecting Mothers Should Know (ProPublica)