Ascension Seton and St. David’s HealthCare: COVID-19 Q&A for Labor and Delivery Patients
Many Austin mothers-to-be are wondering how COVID-19 will affect their labor and delivery. For those of you who have contacted Austin Expecting with your questions, and for all of you feeling the anxiety of giving birth during these uncertain times, we have reached out to Austin hospitals to find out what local mothers can expect from their labor and delivery experience. Ascension Seton and St. David’s HealthCare have provided the following information.
Will all Ascension Seton and St. David’s HealthCare locations continue to deliver babies, even if/when there is an influx of COVID-19 patients?
Our hospitals and birthing centers are the safest places to give birth. Extensive precautions are taken with every patient to prevent the spread of infection. Our staff are trained on how best to prevent infection, as well as the most effective ways to provide the labor support and guidance every patient needs during the birth of their baby. Additionally, we are prepared to respond to any complications that may occur during labor and birth for both healthy women and those who have higher-risk pregnancies.
Our dedicated teams of nurses, physicians and midwives are committed to providing the safest and most effective care. We know this experience may not be what patients imagined, but we will continue to go above and beyond to help them get the most out of this experience while adhering to the guidelines set in place to keep women and their babies safe and healthy.
For laboring women, is only one caregiver allowed in with the mother?
Most Ascension Seton and St. David’s HealthCare facilities are allowing one labor support person to be with the patient. With very few exceptions, families and visitors are also being restricted from hospitals due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients should talk to their provider to understand the policy at the facility where you will deliver.
Are all visitors to the hospital undergoing temperature checks, including the labor/delivery staff?
Ascension Seton and St. David’s HealthCare have a number of protocols and policies in place to protect our associates, one of which is following CDC guidelines regarding personal protective equipment (PPE). The CDC has recently updated its guidelines surrounding the personal protective equipment (PPE) requirement used for COVID-19, and both hospital systems are adhering strictly to those guidelines.
Ascension Seton and St. David’s Healthcare also established regular screenings of associates to check for symptoms and provide regular temperature checks.
Ascension Seton and St. David’s HealthCare are conducting temperature screenings on everyone who enters our facilities. We also have a number of screening questions in place for all patients and visitors before entering the building, including questions like:
- Does the patient/visitor have a fever or signs/symptoms of lower respiratory illness, for example a cough or shortness of breath?
- Has the patient/visitor had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days?
Again, this is a precautionary measure that helps maintain the safety of all involved and limits the spread of any potential infectious illnesses.
Ascension Seton and St. David’s HealthCare currently have visitor restrictions and screenings in place at each of inpatient and outpatient sites of care. All of these measures are in place to protect our associates, patients and visitors.
In the event that a laboring mother has COVID-19 symptoms or is herself positive, will she still labor in the labor/delivery unit?
If a pregnant patient is experiencing the symptoms of COVID-19, is confirmed positive for COVID-19 or is a person under investigation (PUI) for the coronavirus, she should notify the obstetric unit prior to arrival so the facility can make appropriate infection control preparations.
Are there any limitations to the number of people still entering the room after the baby is born? Number of nurses, others administering hearing testing, lactation consultants, etc.?
We are committed to providing the highest level of care, while also implementing changes to protect mothers, babies, their family and our associates from increased exposure to COVID-19. Decreasing close proximity interactions with as many individuals as possible will assist with this goal.
For this reason, Ascension Seton is temporarily changing the way providers perform newborn exams. During the hospital stay, providers will be wearing a mask and examining newborns near the door of patient rooms as precautionary measures. We ask that mothers and their visitors maintain at least six feet of distance from their provider during the visit. Providers will happily share updates and answer questions either from the doorway or by telephone.
In some Ascension Seton facilities, obstetricians rotate in shifts to provide hospital-based care to all patients on the unit, regardless of who the patient’s primary physician is. This is yet another way to decrease the risk of exposure to patients and other providers in the hospital. Talk to your provider about how your delivery might change based on the model that has been established at the facility where you will deliver.
In addition to taking infection control measures, all maternity patients in Ascension Seton and St. David’s HealthCare facilities are cared for in private rooms, which include their own bathroom. Patients and visitors are asked to remain in their rooms and avoid circulation in common areas as much as reasonably possible.
To protect patients and staff, it’s imperative that patients and their families follow the latest government advice about social distancing; stay away from public places and avoid anyone who has symptoms suggestive of COVID-19. Further direction from the CDC in regard to pregnancy and breastfeeding can be found here.
Are doulas, midwives, and/or photographers now restricted from entering?
As part of a comprehensive response to preparedness for the COVID-19 outbreak, Ascension Seton and St. David’s HealthCare have evaluated visitor procedures and recently moved to a temporary ‘no visitor’ policy. Our priority is to reduce transmission risk among associates, patients and visitors, and to protect individuals who are at a higher risk for adverse health complications. We encourage virtual visitations using your personal mobile devices.
There are a few exceptions, including expectant mothers or women giving birth, who are permitted to be accompanied by one care partner, and patients in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Additionally, overnight visitations are allowed for pediatric patients and women in the labor and delivery and postpartum units.
Our guidance addresses the safety of the patients we are privileged to serve, as well as our associates, in alignment with guidelines from the CDC. In addition, it ensures that we continue to deliver optimal care balanced with our patients’ rights to receive visitors.
The Ascension Seton visitor recommendations apply to non-associate doulas, midwives, and photographers.
St. David’s HealthCare is asking its patients and their named visitor to be particularly vigilant with respect to social distancing in the 14 days prior to admission. No children or additional visitors will be permitted. If a visitor has been self-isolating due to COVID-19 symptoms or in contact with an individual who has had symptoms—or if a patient’s support person cannot pass the hospital’s strict screening process—they must not accompany the patient. The mother may also have (in addition to her support person) a paid professional doula at her side for the duration of labor and delivery. St. David’s HealthCare recognizes the doula as part of the maternal care team, but the doula must pass the hospital’s current screening process.
Any other information that we could pass along to our community of mothers would be greatly appreciated.
We are taking every precaution to ensure that both hospital staff and patients are protected. While much is still being learned about COVID-19, the health and safety of our pregnant patients is and has always been our top priority. Every birth is unique, and we will continue to ensure a safe environment for the most important moments in a mother’s life.
Although the effects of COVID-19 in pregnancy have not been widely studied, coronaviruses (COVID-19) do not appear to cause miscarriages or birth defects. More importantly, pregnant patients who contract a COVID-19 infection do not appear to have more complications of pregnancy. However, because pregnant women experience changes in their bodies that may increase their risk of some infections, it is always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illness.
Expectant mothers should practice social distancing, frequently wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, disinfect surfaces frequently and avoid anyone who is ill. To make this easier, Ascension Seton obstetricians are implementing new ways to provide care (through virtual care visits that involve two-way audio and video communication with your provider) designed to provide safe, high-quality prenatal care.
At Ascension Seton, virtual visits are replacing many routine visits, and the remaining in-person visits are scheduled at critical points in the pregnancy to ensure the best care for mother and baby. Patients may also be asked to check their own blood pressures at home and report those readings to the care team.
Additionally, some scheduled postpartum visits may be virtual unless there is a specific situation or problem that requires an in-person visit. This is to decrease the risk of exposure of mother and baby to COVID-19.
St. David’s HealthCare is also offering virtual visits with obstetricians and maternal fetal medicine physicians at some of its facilities in order to minimize contact for the patient, physician and staff.
Any mother with a confirmed COVID-19 case or who is experiencing symptoms will be supported in taking all the possible precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant. Whether or how to start or continue breastfeeding will be determined by the mother in coordination with her healthcare providers. (Currently, there is no evidence that COVID-19 transmits through breast milk.)
Ascension Seton and St. David’s HealthCare also have robust procedures in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 within our hospital and in the community. To reduce unnecessary traffic to the hospital, all parent education classes and tours have been cancelled for the foreseeable future; where possible, Ascension Seton and St. David’s HealthCare have introduced virtual tours and classes.
Additionally, Ascension Seton has established a COVID-19 hotline for Ascension Texas. Available from 6 a.m. to midnight, the hotline is staffed by triage nurses who will respond to public questions and implement the most up-to-date screenings and protocols to guide patients to the most appropriate care setting, including staying at home and/or virtual options. The Ascension Texas hotline is 1-833-919-1680.
St. David’s HealthCare and Ascension Seton remain focused on providing patients with outstanding care, and we have dedicated staff working hard to ensure expectant mothers have a healthy and positive pregnancy and birth.
Are you asking for and/or accepting donations of masks at any Ascension Seton or St. David’s HealthCare locations?
We continue to receive requests for ways individuals and organizations in our local communities can support our healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we appreciate the outpouring of generosity.
While Ascension Seton and St. David’s HealthCare currently have an adequate supply of masks and other PPE, Ascension Seton is accepting donations from businesses and members of the community as a precautionary measure for unpredictable circumstances as hospitals work to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Ascension Seton is now accepting in-kind donations for supplies, including PPE, caregiver support and child life wish lists. For more details and to see a list of supplies we are currently requesting, as well as ideas for caregiver support, please visit AscensionTXCovidDonations.org.
St. David’s HealthCare is currently accepting N95 masks and surgical masks; disposable gloves; goggles; eye shields; industrial soap; and antibacterial/disinfectant wipes. Based on current CDC guidelines, homemade masks are not accepted at this time. Donations can be dropped off at the loading dock at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center (901 W. Ben White) Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. The loading dock is located on the north side of the parking garage, closest to Ben White. Additional ways to help can be found here.
Additionally, Ascension Seton’s new COVID-19 Response Fund was established to meet the unprecedented challenges our community is facing. Gifts made to this fund will support our efforts and community by:
- Helping vulnerable patients cover healthcare costs related to COVID-19;
- Supporting caregivers’ needs or hardships resulting from COVID-19; and
- Helping cover hospitals’ supply, equipment or program needs related to COVID-19 response
Of course, the single most important thing the community can do to help is to follow orders from local leaders and stay home, keeping a distance of at least six feet from people outside your household. But in order for it to work, everyone must comply. The sooner we act, the safer our community will be.
Thank you for your interest in supporting our healthcare system during these challenging times. As we identify additional ways the community can get involved, we will share updates at AscensionTXCovidDonations.org and StDavids.com/covid-19/how-to-help.