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Giving birth no longer a family affair at B.C. hospitals

Last Updated Apr 16, 2020 at 10:10 pm PST

(iStock Photo)

At some hospitals, the mother is only allowed to have one support person with her

A midwife tells us even nitrous oxide is off the table for labour pain relief, for the time being, at some facilities

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – Expectant parents are having to adjust their birthing plans, and change their expectations about the whole process, given new safety protocols in B.C.’s hospitals.

In fact, the way midwives handle their clients, in general, has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our initial visit with clients is now over Zoom because there’s not a lot of hands-on care that we need to provide at that point,” says Aly Jones, vice president of the Midwives Association of BC.

She says they do meet face-to-face with expectant mothers for the second appointment, which is when midwives want to hear the fetal heartbeat. But appointments are shorter, the office administrator is not there in person, and consultations are timed so that there is no overlap between patients who normally have to wait in a shared area.

Parents ready to give birth will find a different atmosphere at hospitals.

“At the front entrance, people will encounter hand sanitizing stations and they will be asked questions about their general health,” notes Jones, who practices in Victoria, where there are restrictions on who can come in with the expectant mother.

“Only one support person – a partner or a doula, but not both. And no support people or family sitting in the waiting room. That’s a big change for families who are used to having the freedom whatever support people they’d like with them.”

And no nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, at the hospitals where she delivers babies.

There are concerns the pain relief option, administered via the mouth, droplets could be exchanged with other patients.

Hospital stays are being shortened from the usual 24 to 48 hours.

Post-partum visits are also being conducted both in-person and online. For babies whose weight is a concern, extra equipment is being provided to the parents.

“We have bought extra baby scales to offer to lend to families who want to keep an eye on baby’s weight,” explains Jones.

She points out meetings with new moms can be adjusted if they are considered high-risk or alone. “Some people need more visits, which is pushing us to be more creative.”

Circumstances not directly related to child-birth are also triggering fears for parents.

“Even the logistics around having older kids. Typically parents would call on friends or family to take care of older kids while they go to the hospital to give birth.”

The situation is prompting some parents to consider home births.

“In my own practice and I’ve heard across the province, there’s a higher interest in home births.”

But she stresses hospital births are considered safe and want to remain that way, which is why the temporary protocols are in place.