July 28, 2020
Staying Healthy and Safe with a Newborn: What you need to know about postpartum care during COVID-19
Delivering and bringing home a new baby brings joy and excitement, along with some understandable nervousness. During the global pandemic, you may be wondering: is it safe to go into a health care provider’s office or clinic? How do you recover from delivery while avoiding COVID-19? How do you keep your baby healthy?
Chantal Nguyen-Tran, MD, an obstetrician affiliated with Memorial Hermann, says “Expectant and new mothers are dealing with some anxiety these days, but postpartum care is an important priority, even while we are confronted with the spread of COVID-19.”
Don’t skip your postpartum appointments.
It is important to balance the need for postpartum care with the need to stay safe from COVID-19. “After having a baby, you need to be seen for an exam,” Dr. Nguyen-Tran says. “Postpartum women may develop physical challenges with breastfeeding, like engorgement or mastitis, or need pain management from either vaginal or cesarean delivery.”
Another critical part of an exam is screening for postpartum depression or baby blues. During the pandemic, anxiety and depression may be exacerbated for new moms. “In addition to caring for their newborn, women may be worried about things like quarantine, financial stability and keeping other family members safe,” she says.
Even if you are worried, the best way to make sure you are healthy is to stick with your postpartum checkups. “Don’t delay care after delivery. These days, moms are being discharged from the hospital more quickly, so a postpartum exam is even more critical,” says Dr. Nguyen-Tran.
If you have questions about what your provider is doing to make postpartum visits safe, call and ask questions rather than skipping your appointment. Visits may be different these days, but you can still get the care you need.
Dr. Nguyen-Tran says “you can delay a little bit if you want, but not without a checkup first.” The initial postpartum visit is important and should not be skipped, especially if you had a cesarean delivery. During that first appointment after giving birth, you and your provider can discuss the possibility of delaying subsequent postpartum exams, if you are uncomfortable being in a health care environment.
Virtual appointments are appropriate for some checkups, but not all. The benefits of seeing your provider, in person and with safety precautions, often outweigh the risks of contracting COVID-19. Discuss the options with your provider to determine what is best for you.
Precautions in the waiting room and exam room
“Providers are paying attention to the waiting room, requiring masks and enforcing social distancing,” says Dr. Nguyen-Tran. Many providers have patients wait in their car until the appointment, and restrict having other people in the room. “Don’t bring the baby with you,” she advises. “These days it’s safer to leave the baby with another caregiver.”
Risk of COVID-19 for newborns: what we know now.
In addition to keeping up with your postpartum appointments, new mothers need to take steps to reduce exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Start by keeping yourself healthy. If you avoid the virus, then your baby will have a better chance of staying safe.
- Wear a face mask.
- Wash your hands, frequently, with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid crowds of people.
- Limit visitors in your home.
Can infants get COVID-19?
Yes, but we do not fully understand how it is transmitted. “Initially we believed there was no issue with trans-placental spread of the virus, but now some newborns have tested positive,” said Dr. Nguyen-Tran.
The research is inconclusive, so we don’t know if the babies were infected in the womb, or after delivery when exposed to other people. Dr. Nguyen-Tran recommends keeping your newborn away from people outside your household and making sure everyone washes their hands before holding the baby.
Is breastfeeding safe during the pandemic?
“If a mother has COVID-19, it is unlikely the virus will be present in the breastmilk,” says Dr. Nguyen-Tran. Mothers who test positive, and choose to breastfeed, should be diligent with handwashing and wearing a mask while holding or feeding the baby. “The bonding between mother and newborn during breastfeeding it important, but if you are nervous you can pump and have a family member feed the baby,” she says. “The benefits of breastmilk outweigh the potential risks.”
New moms are dealing with additional stress and uncertainty these days, but caring for yourself and your newborn are essential. The best course of action is to talk with your provider so you can feel comfortable continuing your care.
The information in this article was accurate as of July 28, 2020.