Pregnant with her second daughter, due in August, Kylie Foss wanted her husband to be with her for the 20-week prenatal visit and ultrasound. So she managed to squeeze in the appointment a week early.
“I’m glad we got it in,” Foss, of Minneapolis, said Monday. “That’s a big appointment and a fun one and it would be pretty sad if he wasn’t able to be there.”
Foss, 31, and her husband, Chris, together were able to see the images and learn that their unborn baby is healthy. Had the couple waited until this week, Foss probably would have gone alone.
In just a week, much has changed for pregnant women in Minnesota as the COVID-19 pandemic compressed and restricted routine prenatal visits, pushed mothers into self-quarantine, forced them to reconsider where to give birth and face the prospect of delivery without a partner or doula in the room.
Hospitals and clinics are cutting back on prenatal visits, requiring women to go alone and limiting who can accompany them into the birthing rooms.
Last week, many hospitals advised they would allow only one support person in the delivery room. Two major New York hospital systems aren’t allowing anyone other than medical staffers into delivery rooms.
With the new restrictions, the Minnesota Birth Center, which has locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul, has started receiving more inquiries than usual from pregnant women. The center is still allowing mothers to bring in a partner and a doula.
Patricia Hinck, director of midwifery at the center, said that exceptions were made in a couple cases for women to transfer to the clinic, which usually doesn’t accept transfers past 32 weeks.
“We’re trying to fast-track them and help them through this crisis,” she said.
In Minneapolis, the chairwoman of obstetrics and gynecology at Hennepin Healthcare, the largest safety net provider in the state, is trying to raise $60,000 to purchase blood pressure cuffs and thermometers for 1,350 pregnant women in the system.
The new equipment will help providers get accurate blood pressure and temperature readings.
“We have not only pared back the number of prenatal visits but have converted about half of them into virtual visits, to either phone or video,” Dr. Tara Gustilo wrote in a fundraising appeal.
Victoria Downey and her husband, Cory Healey, are expecting their first child, a son, in late May. They’re locked down in their St. Paul house, and Healey makes trips for food to the nearby co-op during off-hours to avoid crowds.
Downey, 37, said she was nervous about her prenatal clinic visit last week, calling ahead to see if she needed to go. She did, but she was wary. “We didn’t feel particularly comfortable in the clinic,” she said.
On Monday, the Birth Center announced another big change: Its staff will no longer be able to accompany patients to hospitals if their delivery becomes complicated.
That means mothers will be assisted by hospital staffers rather than the familiar birth center staff they had been seeing throughout the pregnancy.
Downey considered switching to a birth center when she learned her doula — a birthing coach who provides the mother with guidance and support — couldn’t be in the delivery room at the Mother Baby Center at United in St. Paul.
But she decided stick with the hospital; birth centers send families home within hours, and Downey said she preferred the longer postpartum care offered at the hospital. And she wanted a neonatal intensive care unit nearby just in case.
Downey said she can still bring the doula into the delivery room by virtual means, but it won’t be the hands-on comfort she had hoped for.
“Our doula is a masseuse and that’s one of the things I was excited about,” she said. “It’s hard to massage via Zoom.”
Foss, who delivered her first daughter at the Health Foundations Birth Center in St. Paul, is going back for baby No. 2. “I think I’m more prepared this time,” she said.
She said it’s likely to be just her and her husband, but the rules could change by August.
“I’ve got some time to hope this thing passes,” she said.
Linnea Mohn, 39, is expecting to deliver her second child, a daughter, next week. She’s had an uncomplicated pregnancy and, until recently, planned a water birth at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, where she lives.
She was hoping to bring her partner, Luke Anderson, her sister and a doula into the room with her. But then she saw what was happening with the virus, she said, and thought the hospitals could get overwhelmed “if this gets really bad.”
She was able to switch to the Roots Community Birth Center in Minneapolis. Birth centers normally work with women throughout the pregnancy, but Mohn said she had one compressed birth planning meeting.
She went alone to her prenatal visit Monday. She said the staff wore masks and patients were scheduled with at least a half-hour gap between appointments to allow for cleaning and distancing.
“It was really weird to have an appointment and not see my midwife’s face,” Mohn said.
For now, the center will allow her to bring her partner and a doula in for her water birth, but she knows she might be without one or both.
“I’ll have to roll with it,” she said, adding: “I feel like I’m in really good hands.”
Daniella Keith of Rogers, 31, is expecting a daughter on April 29, the first child for her and her husband, David Miranda. The Costa Rica natives have already dialed back plans for their excited extended families to be in Minnesota for the event.
“It’s the first grandbaby for everybody,” Keith said.
Now it appears Keith’s mother, Kristina Herrero, will be the only one there. She jumped on one of the last flights out of Costa Rica last week.
Keith, her husband and mother are working to protect her and the baby. Miranda leaves his shoes outside, takes a hot shower right after he gets home from work and frequently wipes down surfaces.
Her mother, for now, has self-isolated in the basement. Keith said they converse electronically or at opposite ends of the staircase. Keith, an experiential producer at Fast Horse creative agency, is also working from home.
“Thank God I have a lot of work that keeps me busy during the day so I don’t go down hypothetical rabbit holes,” she said.
Keith said she planned for her husband, a cardiologist, to be in the Maple Grove hospital room for the delivery, but she saw the restrictions in New York. “If I have to deliver alone, will I be able to do that?” she said.