As hospitals across New York struggle to handle an influx of coronavirus patients — while simultaneously furloughing workers and running out of personal protective equipment — a task force reporting to Gov. Andrew Cuomo has released guidelines on how to best protect and aid expectant mothers during the pandemic.
Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, issued a report to Cuomo on Wednesday with recommendations on how to better serve laboring mothers at a time when hospitals are already under immense pressure.
DeRosa, who also serves as chair of the New York State Council on Women and Girls, said New York is focused on diversifying birthing options to give patients the opportunity to choose how they'd like to deliver — even in the midst of a pandemic.
"COVID-19 has caused enormous stress for women and expecting parents who are preparing to bring a child into this world in the midst of this global pandemic," DeRosa said in a statement.
"I am proud that during these uncertain times, New York is leading the way in ensuring laboring mothers are properly supported and safely cared for."
Some of the recommendations include:
– The establishment of several "birthing surge sites"
– A streamlined application process for hospitals and healthcare centers to apply to convert unused space into labor/delivery areas
– Expediting licenses for midwife-led birthing centers
– Extending the time a partner or support person (including doulas) can stay ith a mother in a hospital or birthing unit after giving birth
– Testing all laboring mothers and their support partners for COVID-19, as long as testing is available. The task force also recommends testing mothers for COVID-19 one week before their due date also, if possible.
– Launching an educational campaign to explain safety procedures and to reduce racial/ethnic, economic or other disparities
The task force is comprised of a wide array of both medical professionals and maternal health advocates — a conscious choice to keep the needs of both the hospitals and the mothers equally balanced when making recommendations, DeRosa said.
The task force will also begin to collect information and work with the state Department of Health and the University at Albany School of Public Health'a Maternal & Child Health Program to compile a review of the effects of COVID-19 on pregnancy, delivery and newborn/infant children.
Prior to the task force's creation, the state took steps to protect pregnant individuals — most notably when Cuomo overturned some hospitals' decision to bar partners from accompanying laboring mothers in the delivery room in late March.
"In the midst of this pandemic many women are struggling with additional stress and anxiety caused by the uncertainty of this virus and how it might affect their pregnancy or birthing plan," Cuomo said in a statement.
"I'm grateful to the task force for their quick work, and I am accepting all their recommendations which will help tackle the problems that so many women are facing and ensure safer, healthier pregnancies for all."