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Pandemic Protocols Don't Stand in the Way of a Safe Delivery

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 4, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- New infection prevention practices started during the coronavirus pandemic have actually shortened hospital stays for mothers and their babies, a new study finds.

The changes included screening the temperature of all patients and visitors, limiting the number of visitors, providing staff with personal protective equipment, and new protocols for delivery management and newborn care.

"Patients can be reassured that appropriate measures have been taken to protect them and their babies and that those changes are not going to impact their ability to have a good and safe delivery with us," said researcher Naomi Greene, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

For the study, the researchers reviewed data from nearly 2,000 deliveries from two groups. The first group gave birth in January and February of 2020, before new COVID-19 guidelines were in place. The second group had babies in March and April, after new protocols were implemented.

"When the Labor and Delivery Unit made safety modifications in response to the pandemic, approximately half of the women who had vaginal deliveries -- and their babies -- stayed just one night in the hospital. But before the pandemic, only a quarter of the women giving birth went home after one night; most spent two nights, on average," Greene said in a Cedars-Sinai news release.

The same pattern was seen among women who had a cesarean delivery. More than 40% of them spent two days or less in the hospital once the protocols were in place. But before the changes, only 12% were discharged within two days, Greene said.

Maternal-fetal medicine specialist Dr. Mariam Naqvi, senior author of the study, said it was encouraging that shorter stays did not affect the care or welfare of the mother and baby.

"It's always our goal to discharge a patient after she has met all of her postpartum milestones and is medically stable to go home. But with COVID-19, we are mindful of the potential risk of unnecessary or prolonged stays in the hospital. It is encouraging to see that in the short term, spending less time was not associated with more complications," Naqvi said.

Study co-author Dr. Sarah Kilpatrick is the Helping Hand of Los Angeles Chair in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai. "Our study suggests there may be value in exploring whether there are benefits, post-pandemic, of a shorter hospital stay for childbirth. Also, perhaps limiting visitors may give women and their partners time to focus more on the new baby and the helpful in-patient education we provide," she said.

"Our goal during these unprecedented and stressful times is to provide the safest care possible and to get families home, as soon as is safely possible," Kilpatrick added.

The report was published Nov. 1 in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology MFM.

More information

For more on pregnancy and precautions during the pandemic, head to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: Cedars-Sinai, Los Angeles, news release, Nov. 4, 2020

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