Pregnancy can spark anxiety even without a pandemic going on – especially for first-
time mothers. Fears about COVID-19 can heighten this anxiety for women as they try to
understand the risks of the virus, how it will affect their healthcare (including labor and
delivery) and what it means for their unborn child.
We were able to connect with Jennifer Meyer-Carper, MD, of SSM Health Dean Medical
Group to discuss how pregnancy, labor and delivery have been affected by COVID-19
this year. Dr. Meyer-Carper is a board certified obstetrics and gynecology physician.
Her practice is focused on natural childbirth, breastfeeding, contraception, operative
hysteroscopy, and laparoscopic surgery.
Covid + Prenatal Care
Dr. Meyer-Carper explains how prenatal care has evolved at SSM Health this year, from
very strict lock-downs in the spring to a more measured approach now.
Here are some of the changes to your prenatal care that you will notice during your pregnancy:
- Some prenatal appointments may be conducted virtually
- In-person appointments every four weeks, while still conducting ultrasounds and other
critical appointments in-person, as needed
- Screening upon arrival to the clinic
- Required to wear a mask
- In order to minimize the number of people in the clinic, patients cannot have someone
accompany them to appointments or ultrasounds. SSM Health has used some creative
ideas to keep loved ones involved, such as using Facetime, taking videos, using the
speaker phone, printing ultrasound pictures, etc.
Testing Positive while Pregnant
COVID-19 is difficult for any parent, and trying to keep kids safe and making daily risk
assessments for the family can be overwhelming. But what happens when your child is
still growing inside you? What does testing positive for COVID-19 mean for pregnant
women and what does it mean for their unborn baby?
Dr. Meyer-Carper has seen more and more women with COVID-19 over the course of
the year, and like the flu, it’s possible pregnant women are at risk of more severe
symptoms and reactions to the virus. Luckily, that isn’t something she’s seen much of
herself. Also reassuring, she explains that it doesn’t appear to transmit to the baby from the mother – either in utero or during breastfeeding. In fact, a new mother is
encouraged to breastfeed (if possible) to pass along protective antibodies to her baby.
Labor + Delivery
There have been a lot of rumors about what labor and delivery looks like during
pandemic. SSM Health has tried very hard to keep the labor and delivery experience as
close to “normal” as possible.
Each mother is able to have one support person in the delivery room, who will need be
screened (using a questionnaire) for COVID-19 before entering the hospital. In the event your support person has symptoms of COVID-19 or has recently tested positive for COVID-19, they won’t be able to come into the hospital. Make sure you have a back-up person chosen and ready just in case!
In addition, all planned deliveries (such as C-sections and inductions) will require a
COVID-19 test prior to arrival at the hospital.
To keep everyone safe while in the hospital, support people and healthcare workers are
required to wear masks. While in labor, women are encouraged to wear a mask but it’s
not required unless the woman has tested positive for COVID-19.
While it’s obviously scary to imagine having COVID-19 while going into labor, SSM
Health is well prepared for that scenario – they even have special rooms available for
women who have tested positive. Many pregnant women are anxious about what
happens to their newborn baby in this situation, but Dr. Meyer-Carper stresses that
mothers (with support from their healthcare provider) will have the choice of whether to
keep their baby in their room or have the baby isolated in the hospital. There are
benefits and drawbacks to both options, and it’s up to the patient to determine which
option is best for them.
Covid + Postpartum Care
When it comes to postpartum care, not much has changed for new mothers. Typically
there is a two-week follow-up phone call with your healthcare provider to see how
everyone is doing and if you are struggling or having any issues to discuss. At six
weeks postpartum, most visits will be done in-person unless the mother prefers a virtual
We know this year has been incredibly stressful for everyone, and life for new and
expecting mothers has definitely been impacted. We are so appreciative of Dr. Meyer-Carper for helping us understand what COVID-19 means for pregnancy, new motherhood and beyond.
Best of luck with your pregnancy, and know that your healthcare provider is able to walk
through any other questions or concerns you may have.
For more information about Dr. Meyer-Carper or the team at SSM Health, visit the SSM Health Maternity website.