Pregnancy Ultrasounds During The Coronavirus Pandemic Could Look Different For Couples, Experts Say
With ever-changing restrictions in place at hospitals and medical facilities nationwide to quell the spread of the novel coronavirus, some pregnant women now find themselves attending prenatal appointments solo — ultrasounds included. Luckily, you can still get your partner involved with an ultrasound if they aren't allowed in thanks to modern technology.
"Many are allowing FaceTime or video chat to help keep partners involved, but these technologies may depend on the policies of the office," Dr. Caitlin Szabo, OB-GYN, tells Romper.
Your partner's support is invaluable, but safety comes first. At Facey Medical Group, no visitors are currently allowed in clinic for obstetric visits to keep staff and patients safe. Group President Roscoe Marter, M.D. says that although they are currently allowing partners to attend only 20-week anatomy ultrasounds, that policy will likely change "soon."
"We are constantly balancing the safety of our patients, staff and ourselves as we drift into this COVID-19 pandemic against the normal desires of our patients to have life be normal," Dr. Marter says. "We are trying to provide as much of that normalcy as possible, but these are not normal times." But Dr. Marter says that patients are allowed to use FaceTime or video chat while in their appointments to help their partner feel involved.
"We do recognize that this not the same as being there, and we regret that this is necessary," he tells Romper. "We currently are not allowing partners into the visit and we know that this can also be distressing, but we are watching what is happening all over the world and are convinced this temporary policy is critical to help ensure safety."
Sarah Tedesco, R.N., with Lone Tree OB-GYN tells Romper that her patients have been "really understanding" about coming in alone for ultrasounds. "Normally, ultrasounds are a wonderful experience where a couple, family, and friends can all be in the same room together and share in the excitement and joy of seeing the baby for the first time or seeing the baby’s growth later in the pregnancy," she says. "Now, the patient must come alone, but we absolutely encourage FaceTime or Skype so a loved one can still share in this big moment."
Additionally, providers and ultrasound technicians will usually print out plenty of still images from your ultrasound that you can share with your partner after your appointment. Some imaging centers even possess the technology to video record the entire ultrasound for you and can put it on a disc for you to watch with your partner at home.
Laura Rucco-Duran's 20-week ultrasound was impacted by new restrictions put into place because of COVID-19, which for her meant having her scans done at an outpatient office as opposed to a hospital and videoing the entirety of the scan for her husband to watch later at home.
Rucco-Duran is a public relations manager with Montefiore Health Systems in New York (although she gets prenatal care elsewhere), and as someone who works in a hospital setting daily, she sees how healthcare workers are stretched thin and encourages pregnant women to reach out to their providers to find out about potential changes instead of waiting for them to make the call. "I would always recommend that people call to make sure their needs are heard and any alternate arrangements could be considered," she says.
Tedesco tells Romper her office has been proactive in keeping patients informed about procedural changes regarding visitors. "We utilize social media, email, and individual phone calls to contact and inform our patients about new office protocols so they are not surprised when they arrive at the office," she says. "This approach reduces the emotional impact of coming into the practice alone for a routine OB visit."
While you will likely be able to involve your partner through the use of technology, if the prospect of attending an ultrasound appointment alone puts you on edge, should you reschedule? Dr. Szabo says most ultrasounds are scheduled at certain times for a reason, so rescheduling would be at your provider's discretion.
"For example, a nuchal translucency ultrasound needs to be at a certain gestational age in order for the measurements to be analyzed appropriately. Same goes for anatomy ultrasounds," she says. "However, some may be able to be rescheduled on a case-by-case basis, at which time it is best to talk with your provider."
Providers want to keep their patients healthy and happy, but safety during this time of uncertainty comes first. "Remember that any restriction is only in place to protect you and your providers," Dr. Szabo tells Romper. "Health and safety is everyone’s first priority."
Dr. Caitlin Szabo, OB-GYN, Taylor, Suarez, Cook, Khan, and Zertuche, Atlanta Women’s Healthcare Specialists
Roscoe Marter, M.D., President Facey Medical Group
Sarah Tedesco, R.N., Lone Tree OB-GYN