Many mamas in our community are justifiably afraid and uncertain right now. We want to provide rational, helpful information for you. Dr. Aviva Romm, MD is a midwife, herbalist, and Yale-trained MD. She is Board Certified in Family Medicine with Obstetrics, as well as a graduate of Dr. Weil’s Integrative Medicine Residency (University of Arizona). We interviewed her and pulled evidence-based information from her articles to address your pregnancy and COVID-19 concerns.
How will this impact my birth experience? Will hospital overcrowding become an issue for me?
As of right now, overcrowding in maternity wards doesn’t seem to be an issue. According to Dr. Aviva Romm, “hospitals are being instructed to implement protocols that protect women in labor and after birth. There’s no reason to switch to a home birth just because of COVID-19 exposure risk.” Mamas should be aware that hospitals have started to limit the number of people that can come into the birth room with you–this includes doulas. You may be forced with the difficult decision to choose who you want in your birth room. You may only be allowed one person. It’s worth calling your hospital to see what their policy is so you can make that choice ahead of time.
“If you are limited, you can consider having a doula or other members of your support team connect with you in the delivery room on a device (Skype, FaceTime),” suggests Dr. Romm, “so they can still guide you.”
If you are not limited, you want to consider having family members who are at high-risk (such as grandparents) stay home from the hospital and continue practicing social distancing.
For more detailed information on current research, read Dr. Aviva Romm’s article COVID-19, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: What We Know is Reassuring.
Should I ask out-of-town family members to refrain from traveling to meet my new baby?
Due to current CDC recommendations, it would be wise to limit visitors both locally and out-of-town.
Dr. Aviva Romm shared a few ideas for the meantime. Friends and family members can still support by dropping off food and leaving it at the door vs. coming in. You can consider having a big event to celebrate mom and baby later this year when things have calmed down. Mamas can send an email letting friends/family know baby has arrived and their plans to restrict visitors as well as put a sign on the door letting guests know their family’s policy with visits, hand washing, and holding baby.
What should I do to keep my vulnerable newborn safe?
According to Dr. Aviva Romm, the good news is that while “infants can and have become infected by exposure to COVID-19, the rate of severe infections amongst newborns, though it can happen, has thus far been relatively low. Nonetheless, it’s important to remain aware of possible risks, vigilant to signs of distress or COVID-19 infection in newborns. Have your healthcare provider help you understand what’s normal and what’s concerning when it comes to infant respiratory health. For example, a stuffy nose can be common in newborns and may not be concerning, which can provide you with some relief. Consider doing regular temperature checks as you normally would in the early days and having a basic level of vigilance.”
You’ll want to take the same precautions as you normally would to prevent illness and avoid being exposed to the virus, such as washing your hands properly and often (with liquid soap and water for at least 20 seconds), avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes, social distancing (including limiting/avoiding visitors), eating a diet rich in whole foods, and seeking appropriate medical care when needed.
In addition, if you have other kids, you’ll want to be more mindful about them sneezing, coughing, or getting too close to the baby and make sure they’re washing their hands well. To avoid the virus from being spread throughout the house, try to limit exposures like finishing your child’s plate of food and clearly marking drinking cups.
Parents who have kids with unique health needs—pulmonary, lung or immunity issues. What should I be doing?
Speak with your child’s medical care provider about anything different or special you can be doing during this time to protect your child.
Continue to stay in touch with your healthcare provider and follow their recommendations. Not every autoimmune condition is the same. Dr. Aviva Romm addresses the overall risks of COVID-19 with various autoimmune conditions, as well as risks for those for people on immunosuppressive medications in her article COVID-19 and Autoimmune Disease Risk: It Depends on the Condition. She also has a post on Commonsense and Natural Remedies for COVID-1o Prevention.
How can I talk to my kids about this?
We love Dr. Aviva Romm’s tips, which she outlines in detail her article, Talking to Your Kids About COVID-19. She said, “Your kids are hearing about it, are likely experiencing some anxiety, and may not know how to respond. Older kids, especially teens, may be dismissive and not take basic precautions. They are likely to be sharing lip gloss, drinks, cigarettes, etc.–all of which right now could be vectors. So being honest, de-escalating panic, while sharing common sense strategies is a good tactical approach.” Additionally, she shares key points on how to talk to our kids. These include:
- Process and manage your own anxiety first.
- Assess what your child already knows or has heard.
- Listen to–and don’t dismiss –your child’s worries or fears.
- Connect at an age-appropriate level.
- Emphasize (and teach!) what your child can do, for example, elbow bumps, handwashing, and not sharing snacks at school.
- Try to make lemonade out of lemons when it comes to school closings, cancelled travel plans, cancelled birthday parties, or other disappointments your child might face as this situation evolves.
- Be mindful of what and how much they’re being exposed to, such as having news on TV all-day
Great resources Dr. Aviva Romm shares include:
- NPR Just for Kids: A Comic Exploring the Coronavirus
- How to Talk to Kids About Coronavirus, an article by The New York Times
- WHO resource-at-a-glance
- Talking to Teens and Tweens, from the New York Times
Choose your COVID-19 information sources carefully
Here are some recommendations from Dr. Aviva Romm: “For statistics on local and global disease spread I’m using the Johns Hopkins global mapping system. For up-to-date medical guidance I’m following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 page. Use this CDC page for basic preparedness. Your own state and local health authorities may provide more detailed information on their website that is specific to your area.” To keep up to date on all of the resources that Dr. Aviva Romm has provided, you can follow her COVID-19 Intro page.
Please note that this information is not a substitute for the continually updated official information from appropriate health authorities including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, nor for your primary care provider.
Dr. Aviva Romm, MD
Referred to as “the face of natural medicine in the 21st century by Prevention Magazine” and named one of the 100 Women to Watch in Wellness by Mind Body Green, Aviva Romm, MD has bridged the best of traditional medicine with good science for over three decades. A midwife, herbalist, and Yale-trained MD, Board Certified in Family Medicine with Obstetrics, as well as a graduate of Dr. Weil’s Integrative Medicine Residency (University of Arizona), Dr. Romm’s focus is on the impact of stress on health, willpower, food cravings, weight, chronic disease, and hormone imbalance in women, and the prevention of chronic disease in children’s health, with an emphasis on reducing unnecessary antibiotic use. She is also an avid environmental health advocate, researching and publishing on the impact of toxins on fertility, pregnancy, women’s hormones, and chronic illness in women and children.
Dr. Romm is one of the nation’s leaders in botanical medicine and is the author of 7 books on natural medicine, including the textbook Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health (Elsevier) and her latest book The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution (Harper One, January 2017). She is the author of the integrative medicine curriculum for the Yale Internal Medicine and Pediatric Residencies, and is on numerous scientific advisory and editorial boards, including Prevention Magazine. She lives and practices medicine in western Massachusetts and New York City and is a nationally sought speaker, author, and consultant.