The realities of the global COVID-19 pandemic change by the minute. Once we think we have a handle on this reality, new challenges or considerations we hadn’t thought of pop up. Our Cleo Family Guides are here to provide expertise to working families and point them toward the valuable resources needed to make informed decisions.
Each day, our Guides field specific COVID-19 related questions, many of which come up frequently. To give you insight we’re sharing the top 5 FAQs about COVID-19 we get each week. From birth in the time of COVID-19 to caring for kids already at home, here are the topics on parents’ minds.
Week of April 6, 2020
Are hospitals changing length of hospital stay after cesarean birth, and will my partner be able to stay with me?
We are seeing a range of policies at different hospitals, and we also see that policies on partners/support people and length of stay are changing day to day. Overall, if you are having a normal recovery and no complications, people can expect to be discharged about a day sooner than “normal.” That means approximately a day after a vaginal birth and two days after a cesarean birth, versus the common two nights vaginal, three nights cesarean. If there is a medical indication, you can expect cared for and supported in-hospital for as long as necessary.
Partner/support person policies are definitely changing. The new “norm” seems to be that people in labor or having a cesarean birth can bring one person with them, but that that person cannot come and go during your hospitalization. They will be fed by the hospital and have a place to sleep in your room, but they can’t pop out and back in, and they can’t swap out for another person. All guests are screened for fever and COVID-19 symptoms when they arrive, and periodically during your stay. Any guest who screens positive is not allowed to enter or stay.
Some hospitals are making an exception for an additional support person if it is a doula, or professional birth coach. At these facilities, doulas/continuous labor support people are being considered essential support, as they provide direct care to laboring patients (and their support is proven in studies to decrease interventions and increase birth satisfaction). Many families are reaching out to different hospitals in their area to weigh their options and transferring to facilities that are allowing them to bring their doulas.
How should I weigh my options for who to watch my other child when I go into labor?
One way a lot of families are handling care for their older children during and after birth is to make arrangements with a family member, friend, or neighbor who has mutually agreed to be quite strict around “shelter in place” for a period of time (14 days or more if possible) before the birth and throughout the time you are away. They are also asking someone to clean and wipe down all surfaces in their house before they bring the baby home.
The “no guests coming and going from the hospital” policy means making very clear plans for who will care for your pets and other children while you and your partner are at the hospital. Some families are limiting the time that the partner is in the hospital so that they can return home to younger kids as soon as possible. Lots of families are doing virtual chats with their kids at home to reassure them all is well. This has been especially important during a time when lots of kids are associating hospitals with sickness even more than before.
Everywhere has canceled new parent groups, newborn care classes, etc. I’m feeling isolated. Any advice?
The loss of prenatal and postpartum support and education has hit expecting and new parents pretty hard. On a good day, the transition to parenthood is a bit overwhelming, and right now it is even more challenging.
One of the bright spots we see is how many in-person classes are going virtual, and quickly. Local doula groups or brick-and-mortar prenatal/postpartum businesses can point you towards some of the best local resources. For Cleo families, they can link in with virtual group classes and support by checking in with their guide. For others, it is also a time a lot of families are leaning on Facebook or other social media groups for suggestions and ideas.
As always, the key is to find communities where you feel safe asking any question you may have, communities that are grounded in non-judgment and a freedom for us all to birth and parent differently. There is no “right way” with any of this, and finding “your way” is often easier with the expertise of educators and the empathy of peers.
Families With Kids at Home
Is it OK to socially distance with another family?
Every family will make this decision differently. The idea of social distancing is to dramatically limit your exposure to and ability to transmit the virus that causes COVID-19. Some “families” are one person, while some are 10.
You can think of it as a little bubble around you and the others in your “shelter in place circle.” The more people there, and the more they venture out and their own individual contacts, the greater the statistical risk of exposure for each person in the group. However, we all have to balance that with a little thing called “sanity,” and make the choices that will allow us to sustain this with as much confidence and mental well-being as possible.
In many cultures around the world, the size of their “shelter in place circle” is a lot more than the classic nuclear family. What we’re hearing from our families around the world is that the adults in the group are agreeing to the same baseline behaviors (who goes out, what for, how often, where), discussing anyone who is higher risk (elderly, other health conditions), and making a decision together. This is a wonderful practice rooted in both necessity and mutual respect.
I am an essential employee and I'm concerned with bringing COVID-19 home to my baby. What can I do?
For those who are leaving the house to work and concerned about exposing their families to COVID-19, there are a number of factors to balance. While it is a great relief to see that babies and children seem to be at lower risk than the general population for severe cases of COVID-19, we are definitely still hearing from families that they’re worried about transmitting the virus to their babies and small children.
We’ve heard of families whose risk is greater or concern is elevated enough that they have decided to leave work anyway. Think pregnant healthcare workers, or parents of children with respiratory conditions. Some families have decided that their concern about this is great enough that they are isolating the parent who is going to work, having them stay in another part of the house or elsewhere. This is heart-breaking in many ways, but we support people making the decision for what feels right for them. On the other end of the spectrum, some families are practicing the standard hand hygiene quite diligently, and this feels like the right balance for them.
We absolutely know that you can reduce the risk of acquiring the virus while out in the world by wearing a mask yourself while out of the house and by avoiding touching your face. Washing your hands frequently throughout your work day, plus diligently doing so as soon as you arrive home is key. Beyond this, we don’t know exactly which behaviors pose the most risk, and which reduce it. Here is a list of practices we’re hearing about that may reduce risk:
- Wear a setting-appropriate mask when in areas where a lot of people pass through or congregate, or areas that are not well-ventilated (grocery stores, offices, waiting rooms). For non-healthcare workers, at minimum this means a cloth mask. For healthcare workers, this varies between a surgical mask and an N95.
- Avoid touching your face, and put on and take off the mask without touching the front/mouth cover piece.
- Wash your hands frequently, particularly when leaving or returning from a new place, after touching frequently touched objects (door knobs, cell phones).
- Wash your hands as soon as you return home, before touching anything.
Other practices are we have seen among essential workers:
- Showering and changing clothes at work or immediately upon arriving at home (hugs come after).
- Keeping coats and shoes separate from those of your family’s, preferably in a garage or at entrance.
- In general, limiting footwear that is used for the outside within the home.
- Wiping down all gadgets (phones, laptops, pens, glasses) that you take to work upon arriving at home.
- Changing out handbags to washable cloth bags, keeping in a container daily and wash frequently.
- Depending on your level of exposure to people with COVID-19 (a healthcare provider for example), consider wearing a mask at home when you are with family.
Rebekah Wheeler is a Certified Nurse Midwife, RN, MPH and Lead Cleo Family Guide.
Cleo aims to give the most accurate information about COVID-19, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since this story was published. For the latest information, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.