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From doulas, mothers and doctors, what to expect when you're expecting during the coronavirus pandemic

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Posted at 10:47 AM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 19:22:03-05

CLEVELAND — Despite the challenges of being pregnant during a pandemic, babies embody our hopes and dreams and are the promise that life endures.

News 5 is committed to helping you rebound from the pandemic in all sorts of ways, including during pregnancy. We have several members of the News 5 family preparing to welcome babies into this new world and we're helping you know what to expect when expecting during a pandemic.

We talked with a mom, doulas and a doctor to get their perspective.

Mother

"Every morning we wake up and I say, 'good morning,' and he gives me the biggest smile," said Jazmyne Lewis. She became a mom to her son August during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Watching him develop has really been great for my mood," she said. "He's really been my mood booster!"

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Jazmyne says missing extended family has been tough during the pandemic. While dad says staying COVID-19 safe while working outside the home has been stressful. But both say all the bonding time together with August has been a blessing.

"He's been great, he’s been growing," said Ja'Ovvoni Garrison "Thankfully, we haven’t had any crazy issues other than him wanting to eat everything!”

Find the full interview with Lewis on Katie Ussin's Facebook page.

Doulas

"We are about 9 months from the first shutdown, so those little first COVID babies are being born," said Jazmin Long with Birthing Beautiful Communities. They work to reduce racial disparities in infant mortality among the Black community in Cleveland; never more important than now with a pandemic that's disproportionately affecting communities of color.

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Jazmin Long of Birthing Beautiful Communities.

Jazmyne delivered August with the support of a doula from BBC, and Long said they're busier than ever.

"A lot of virtual support happening," said Ashley Sova is with CLEBaby.

Like BBC, they too have moved most services online; including birthing and lactation support, and doulas Zooming-in for the birth when hospital visitor policies restrict their access.

Bottom line: They’re making it work for mothers.

"They're just grateful to have a constant because there's so many things changing in the hospital systems,” said Sova.

Find the full interview with Sova on Katie Ussin's Facebook page.

Doctor

“The one thing that I can guarantee you is that we're never going to make you labor and deliver alone," said Dr. Ellie Ragsdale. "I think that's people's biggest fear.

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Dr. Ellie Ragsdale speaks with Katie Ussin.

Doctor Ragsdale is the director of fetal intervention at University Hospitals.

She says in recent weeks they’ve seen a significant increase in the number of pregnant women testing positive for the coronavirus.

"Overall, outcomes for women who have COVID in pregnancy are very, very good," she said. "In general, women are doing well, but we cannot, unfortunately, predict the women who are going to really struggle with COVID and we are seeing preterm deliveries and pregnancy complications from that. So, it's certainly something that we want pregnant women to be hyper-aware of and extremely vigilant about protecting themselves from contracting COVID-19."

Find the full interview with Ragsdale on Katie Ussin's Facebook page.

Hospital experience

Doctor Ragsdale says every mom gets a rapid COVID-19 test before delivery. If you're scheduled for a cesarean, she says the test will likely be done outpatient a couple of days prior.

"If you test positive for COVID we're not going to tell your visitor they have to leave," she said. "And, we're not going to take your baby away from you. What we're going to do is teach you how to take care of your baby in the safest way possible to keep your baby from contracting
COVID, which honestly just means wash your hands and wear a mask, but we're still going to encourage you to breastfeed and all those things."

Right now, all hospital systems allow one support person for labor and delivery. Doctor Ragsdale says the support person is not tested for COVID, and if mom tests negative the visitor can come and go. However, if mom tests positive then the visitor must stay in the room.

Doctor Ragsdale says they want to take the fear out of being tested for the coronavirus because she says nothing is going to change for mom and mom's experience.

She says they also want to take the fear out of coming to the hospital.

"All hospitals, UH in particular, have made huge strides to make patients safe when they come in to have babies," she said.

She said personal protective equipment works.

"Everyone in the hospital is wearing a mask at all times. Everyone's wearing eye protection, gowns, gloves, shields, and the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 in the hospital is as close to zero as it can get," she said.

The vaccine

When it comes to the coronavirus vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization both say pregnant women at high-risk for exposure may choose to get the shot and say it's a decision between a woman and her physician.

Doctor Ragsdale says the major governing bodies for obstetrics—The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine—have endorsed the vaccine for women trying to conceive, are currently pregnant or breastfeeding.

"I personally have had multiple patients who have already had the vaccine who are health care workers, who are currently pregnant, and we have thus far seen no complication.”

Doctor Ragsdale says the vaccine contains no live virus.

"So, the vaccines that are generally unsafe in pregnancy are vaccines that are live, what we call attenuated virus or virus that's been weakened,” she explained. “This vaccine does not contain that. The mRNA vaccines that are currently on the market contain a piece of the protein that is part of the COVID-19 virus, but do not contain any live virus at all."

She also says there's been a lot of discussion about these being mRNA vaccines.

"So, mRNA is just a messenger that tells your body how to make proteins and how to do things," she said. "mRNA has been studied for years and years and really has no biologic plausibility to be a complication during pregnancy or to cause any issue."

Ragsdale says they don’t know for sure yet whether the baby gets protection if mom gets the coronavirus vaccine, but that is the theory.

"That is how other vaccinations work,” she said. “That's how the flu vaccine works when we give it. That's how the Tdap vaccine that all pregnant women get at about 28 weeks of pregnancy works, that the baby gets passive immunity through the placenta as mom makes antibodies to the virus."

The study

Ragsdale is part of a joint study underway in Cuyahoga County on COVID-19 and pregnancy. It involves the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, MetroHealth Medical Center, Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. High-risk maternal-fetal medicine doctors from all three institutions have been recruiting patients and collecting data since the start of the pandemic. Ragsdale said so far, they’re not seeing vertical transmission to baby.

"So, moms who get COVID-19 in pregnancy who either have it early on or have it when they come in to deliver, their babies are not testing positive," she said.

She says they expect to release more findings from the study soon.

The workplace

As for pregnant women in the workplace, the CDC considers pregnant women a high-risk group for severe illness from the coronavirus.

"Pregnancy is a weakened immune state," said Ragsdale. "In order to prevent your immune system from attacking your baby, your immune system is weakened in pregnancy. So, theoretically from any virus, a pregnant woman could get more ill than a woman who is not pregnant."

She said she believes it is safe for women to be in the workplace right now with appropriate safety measures taken.

"We are telling pregnant women, in the two weeks leading into your delivery, if your employer is amenable and it is possible, we would like for you to shelter at home for those two weeks before delivery to decrease the likelihood that you will have active COVID-19 when you come in to deliver.”

At-home treatment

Ragsdale says for at-home symptomatic care they're telling people to stay hydrated, take Tylenol for a fever, and giving patients Albuterol inhalers to help with breathing if needed.

"Ultimately, a woman who is pregnant with COVID at home, if she has any questions about symptoms, we want to see you either in the office or in labor and delivery to ensure she and baby are safe," said Ragsdale.

She understands that's not something a lot of women can do but says most employers have been very accommodating in her experience.

This story is part of The Rebound: Northeast Ohio, News 5's initiative to help people through the financial impact of the coronavirus by offering one place to go for information on everything available to help and how to access it. We're providing resources on:

Getting Back to Work - Learn about the latest job openings, how to file for benefits and succeed in the job market.

Making Ends Meet - Find help on topics from rent to food to new belt-tightening techniques.

Managing the Stress - Feeling isolated or frustrated? Learn ways to connect with people virtually, get counseling or manage your stress.

Doing What's Right - Keep track of the way people are spending your tax dollars and treating your community.

Do you have an idea for a Rebound story? Email us at rebound@wews.com.