Women face a different birthing experience during pandemic

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After her son Hunter was born in 2014, Kristine Snider remembers the visitors that greeted him at the Owen Sound hospital.


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“His older brother was able to come in and meet him the day after he was born. And aunts and cousins and all kinds of people were stopping in,” she said.

Family and friends also popped by their home after mom and baby were discharged.

But the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prompted a provincial state of emergency and widespread disruptions and restrictions, has made her recent birthing experience vastly different.

Saturday night, Snider and her partner Chris Kirkconnell welcomed the newest addition to their family, Elsie Agatha Eileen Kirkconnell, at Grey Bruce Health Services.

The trio was in the hospital until Wednesday because Elsie required treatment for jaundice.

Over those days, only mom, dad, their midwife and nurses held the baby. No visitors were permitted and family and friends could see Elsie only in online video chats and photos on Facebook.

Snider was happy with those restrictions given the circumstances, having announced on Facebook the day before Elsie was born that no visitors would be allowed at their home either until she and Kirkconnell give the OK, noting they want to be exceptionally careful in isolating their family.

But she admits the hardest part of the isolation was that Elsie’s siblings weren’t able to see their new sister.

“You kind of feel that it’s a huge part of the experience. And they’re still young enough that they don’t really get (the impact of COVID-19) and so it’s just constant communication with my mom who’s watching them and keeping them busy because they’re really eager to meet her,” she said Tuesday.


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Elsie’s brothers Hunter and Jackson got to meet her in person Wednesday.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted just about every facet of life – from births to schooling and weddings to funerals, which have, at many places, limited the number of mourners at 20.

Hospitals in Grey-Bruce are not permitting visitors until further notice.

Exceptions are being made on a case-by-case basis at the three women & child/obstetrics units in the region. They are at Grey Bruce Health Services’ Owen Sound hospital, South Bruce Grey Health Centre’s Walkerton site and the Hanover & District Hospital.

Dr. Melissa Comette, chief of the department of obstetrics/gynecology at GBHS, said two main things have changed in the department because of the COVID-19 situation.

Women can have only one support person with them and that individual must be their sole support person for their entire stay – throughout labour, the birth and the recovery period, she said.

The other difference is both the labour and delivery and postpartum women and children units are locked to protect patients and staff from community spread.

“People get really excited when babies are born and they think, I’m just going to pop in and see the new baby, but they’ll be met with a locked door and asked if they’re a support person and that we’re not accepting any other visitors at this time,” Comette said.

Comette said the team of nurses, doctors and midwives, which can be part of a woman’s care team, are all working together to ensure each patient’s pregnancy and birth is a positive experience.


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“We are well supplied with equipment, we have significant contingency plans should we have an infected mom or an infected babe or infected staff. We’re prepared for all of those things and we are in daily contact with our regional partners and our tertiary care centre, which is London, making sure we’re up-to-date on the best guidelines on how to look after our healthy moms, but also any moms that do become unwell,” she said.

Information to date suggests that pregnant women are not more susceptible to getting COVID-19 or becoming more sick than others from the virus, she added.

“That’s actually different than seasonal flu,” she said.

Snider said the nursing staff and Midwives Grey Bruce deserve thanks for being so comforting and compassionate during her time at the Owen Sound hospital.

Leading up to the birth, she said she was keeping an eye on the evolving COVID-19 situation.

She read posts online by women in other parts of the world who were not able to bring their partners into the delivery room.

“I was hoping that it didn’t come to that and I’m really glad that it didn’t,” she said.

Hospitals in New York City, for example, have barred partners, support people like doulas and others from the delivery room.

Owen Sound-based doula Emma McNally, owner of Acorns to Oaks Doula Services, said the COVID-19 situation has left many pregnant women feeling worried about how it will impact their birthing plans.

“So many women envision this for so long and they really find it such an important thing to have this plan set out and to go in and not have what you were expecting it to be can actually be really traumatic,” she said.


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For some women, it’s important to have more than one support person with them, she said.

Snider said she had some anxiety before her baby was born because of the pandemic and many questions.

“Do I have to wear a mask during delivery? Will I get to be with the baby right after? Just those unknowns and trying to not focus on that while you’re supposed to be excited and hoping your baby comes soon. But you’re almost wishing she will wait a bit longer,” she said.

Elsie ended up being six days late – arriving at 9:45 p.m. on March 21, weighing nine pounds, six ounces and measuring 21.25 inches.

Snider had her laptop with her at the hospital and got a data package so she could stay in touch with family and friends and show off photos of Elsie, who is the fourth child in Snider and Kirkconnell’s blended family.

The family is now in isolation at home.

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