Hospitals in San Francisco and other cities may ban pregnant people from having visitors during labor because of the coronavirus, including spouses and partners

·4 min read
pregnant woman pregnancy expectant expecting first second third trimester fertile fertility mom mother parent maternity baby birth labor cox 2
pregnant woman pregnancy expectant expecting first second third trimester fertile fertility mom mother parent maternity baby birth labor cox 2

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  • San Francisco's public health department issued a mandate that all visitors were banned from hospitals in the city.

  • The order allows some hospitals to make exceptions, allowing for one visitor in the delivery room, but some expectant mothers fear their hospitals may not veto the rule.

  • Hospitals in Massachusetts and Florida also said all visitors would be banned.

  • In other parts of the country, hospitals including NYU Langone have said pregnant women are now only allowed to have one person in the delivery room with them.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Most hospital policies normally allow for two to three people in a delivery room.

But as the coronavirus spreads across the US, that policy is changing, with strict rules announced in San Francisco, California; Jacksonville, Florida; and Boston, Massachusetts.

San Francisco's Department of Public Health issued a mandate on March 14 banning all visitors, from spouses to clergy to family members, were banned from all hospitals.

Families were advised to call their hospitals in advance to see if the hospital will make exceptions, since the order allows hospitals to make allowances where they see fit. UCSF, for example, released a statement that said pregnant women will be allowed  one extra person in the delivery room, but it is not clear if all hospitals would make the same exception for pregnant women. 

Visitors have also been banned at the Mayo Clinic hospital in Jacksonville and Tufts Medical Center in Boston. It's unclear whether exceptions will be allowed.

Across the country, other hospitals have also tightened up their policies on visitors, though fell short of banning them altogether. 

Pregnant stomach
Pregnant stomach


Penn Medicine is banning visitors except for some patients, including expectant mothers, and some Mayo Clinic locations will allow two visitors at most. Boston Medical Center, Michigan Medicine, and NYU Langone have announced limits of just one visitor per person, and BMC is not allowing any visitors in the post-anesthesia care unit. 

All hospitals note that special exemptions can be made if someone is dying, and one parent at a time can visit if a child is a patient.

But for millions of pregnant women, going into labor alone is a very real possibility. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, one mom-to-be was told by hospital staffers that "at this point, if you went in labor, you would pull up at the hospital, kiss your husband goodbye, & we would step in as your husband."

Hospitals can be highly infectious places

On any given day in a hospital, at least one in every 31 people will contract an infection, according to CDC estimates.

Sick people in hospitals have already-compromised immune systems and can be more vulnerable to the diseases they're in close proximity to. Some of these infections can be superbugs, which are hard to kill with existing drugs. A superbug, like MRSA or C.Diff, can be transmitted via the touch of an infected patient. 

But superbugs are not the only thing people heading to the hospital have to worry about. Now pregnant women and other hospital goers will have to worry about the possibility of getting the new coronavirus.

"Am I doomed to be in the same hospital as other patients who are there fighting for their lives with such a virus?" Lauren McCauley, a pregnant paralegal living in Wilmington, Delaware previously told Insider. "Am I going to catch it there? Will my baby?" 

Some doulas and midwives are recommending at-home births

Home birth is fairly uncommon in America, making up under 2% of all deliveries.

But amid growing concerns about hospital capacity during the coronavirus outbreak, some mothers are expressing concerns about giving birth in an overcrowded hospital full of overworked employees. Some pregnant women say they want to give birth at home to make room for more at-risk patients.

Limits on family members is yet another deterrence. 

"It only makes sense for out-of-hospital birth to become the safer choice for the majority of people," Dr. Sarita Bennett, the vice president of the Midwives Alliance of North America, wrote on her organization's website.

"The worry for me, or my unborn baby, or my child contracting coronavirus, is unbelievably nerve-wracking," McCauley told Business Insider. "I'm all they have." 

Read more:

Pregnant women are concerned about hospital births in light of coronavirus outbreaks and little information about how it might affect them

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