TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Natalie Earl is about to be a mom for the first time this spring, an experience she never expected to have during a global pandemic.

When Earl talked about her current situation, she peppered her sentences with positivity, but she did point to some evidence of the pandemic’s effect on her physical health.

“The stressors of it, they’ve been causing me to have contractions,” Earl said, “I think that’s why I’ve been having some random contractions because of the worry about it.”

The CDC reported pregnant women appear to have no greater risk for COVID-19 than people who aren’t pregnant, but there are plenty of strains put on these women surrounding their pregnancy and childbirth itself.

Earl says the limit of visitors allowed at the hospital whens she does give birth adds another layer of frustration.

“My parents were really wanting to come,” Earl said, “My mother-in-law wanted to come, too, but with everything going on, they can’t do it and they seem to be really upset about it.”

Emily Wiete said she’s also dealing with the difficult reality that, with travel restrictions, her mom won’t be able to fly out to help with the upcoming birth of her son. Originally, her plan was to have her mom watch her young daughter, but now that plan is completely changed.

“That has been difficult,” Wiete said, “Even just last night, I was up until about 2 a.m. racking my brain like ‘what am I gonna do with my daughter when he arrives, what am I gonna do?’ We have no family here.”

Wiete said her and her husband do have a great community of friends in the area, but that current hospital restrictions may even limit the time her husband has with his new son, since he may have to leave to take care of their daughter.

“There’s a good potential that he’ll be there for the birth and then not again,” Wiete said.

Several local hospitals have a variety of restrictions and protocol in place to ensure the safety of new moms and their babies and limit the fear of COVID-19 exposure.

Good Samaritan Hospital’s OB Unit Nurse Manager, Kristi Isaac, RN, gave the following statement on the protocol in place at GSH:

Upon admission, all mothers and their support person are going through the same procedures as all patients. They are asked the screening questions and temperature is taken. We have a specific, negative pressure labor room that has been designated for any COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 patients. We also have a postpartum and nursery room that is negative pressure. As for PPE, all staff are wearing masks with all patient interaction. We have the appropriate PPE, including N95 masks, face shields, gowns, shoe covers, and gloves, that will be worn by our staff with PUI’s or COVID-19 patients. We are allowing one support person with mother during labor and throughout her postpartum stay. This will be the same person throughout the stay. There can be no switching out. During this uncertain time, the Nurses, Unit Clerks, PCT,  Scrub Tech, and Physicians are committed to making sure our moms and babies stay safe and still receive the excellent care that we have always given.  We still want to make this experience a happy and joyous time for each new family. At this point in time, this part of healthcare is a rainbow in the middle of the storm.

Kristi Isaac, RN, Good Samaritan Hospital OB Unit Nurse Manager

The following is a list of Greene County General Hospital’s labor and delivery protocol:

  • All patients are screened
  • All patients are asked to wear a mask
  • Nursing staff will be wearing appropriate PPE as the individual situations arise
  • There are no visitors allowed, except for one significant other if the mother is in labor
    • There are no visitors allowed for other OB admissions/testing
  • Significant Other will be screened
  • Significant Other must wear a mask at all times
  • Significant Other is asked to stay the length of the admission
  • Significant Other is the only visitor allowed. S/he cannot “tap-out” with another family member/friend.

Regional Hospital in Terre Haute also has an entire section of its website dedicated to information for pregnant women which can be found here.

Union Hospital has the following restriction examples in place, according to Director of Maternal-Child Services Kristen Moore, MSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM:

  • Screening all patients for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, recent exposure to someone who has tested positive, etc.
  • Screening all patients who are scheduled for a procedure such as cesarean section or induction of labor, on the night before admission
  • Limiting visitation in order to decrease the chance of exposure to moms, babies, families, and staff. Moms are currently able to have one support person join them during their stay, and infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit may have two identified visitors for their entire stay.
  • We maintain frequent meticulous hand hygiene by patients, visitors, and staff.
  • Our team has specific rooms reserved for COVID positive or suspected patients in order to reduce the opportunity of exposure to other patients and families.
  • We are following guidelines for COVID-19 positive or suspected mothers as well as breastfeeding guidelines for mothers to pump breastmilk and feed to their infant, or mothers wear a mask if they wish to nurse at the breast.
  • Our team wears appropriate personal protective equipment as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and American Academy of Pediatrics.

Local doula Jessie Uchytil shares her thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 on childbirth:

Brittany Kleptz works at a local medical lab and said her job has created its own fears, as she worries about exposing her young children to the COVID-19 virus.

“We’re doing all the handling of the actual COVID-19 tests,” Kleptz said, “When the nurses collect them they send them to us, so that’s a little scary.”

Another area of concern for parents is finding the items their children need and venturing out to grocery stores during the pandemic. Kleptz said she has yet to run out of any diapers or baby wipes, but she fears the day when she may.

“It goes a lot quicker than you remember,” Kleptz said, “So the thought of trying to find more is a little bit scary.”

Brandy Collier said she’s only left the house a few times since the beginning of the pandemic, and she wishes more people took the advised safety precautions, like the stay-at-home order, seriously.

“I would like for them to stop and think if it was one of their family members, loved ones, children working front line,” Collier said, “How would they feel if someone were to come in contact with the COVID-19 virus and pass it along to them.”

Collier said she too has been lucky to not run out of things her 4-month-old baby needs.

“Thankfully, through this time, I’ve had a really good support system and a lot of people through outreach groups have helped me out,” Collier said.

Wiete added that any woman who is raising a child during this time is part of a bigger support system of encouragement and understanding.

“I’m thinking about all the moms out there, there’s so many,” Wiete said, “We’re all in this together, and it’s really unfortunate for everybody but obviously we just hope for the health of our future children and for us.”

Earl said she’s planning to name her daughter Hope, a name she picked out for its relevance in her personal life, but one she says is now even more relevant.

“I was thinking more of hope for myself,” Earl said, “But now it’s like hope for the whole world.”