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Hospitals restricting visitation for expectant mothers' rooms

Pandemic forcing some women to change birthing plans at hospitals around D.C. area. Most hospitals limit visitation to just one person at a time

WASHINGTON — Sara Snow expects to deliver a baby girl Thursday. This is Snow’s second baby, but the delivery is turning out to be very different because of the pandemic.

"Before, we had our family in here. I had my brother in here. We had a really good support system. As of right now, you’re only allowed to have one visitor," Snow told WUSA9 over the phone minutes before nurses at a Maryland hospital induced labor. "This time around, you walk into the hospital, you have to put a mask on right away."

Credit: Sara Snow
Sara Snow and boyfriend Dwayne at hospital before delivery

Snow is going through the birth process with hospital staff. Other mothers choose to have doula support. A doula is a person hired by the mother as a supportive guide and advocate during the birth process. 

Rachel Frier Carbonneau, with Family Ways Birth & Postpartum Support, is a doula who has helped hundreds of women through birthing, but now finds the pandemic is forcing some mothers to make a bedside decision: doula or partner.

“Doulas, we’re finding, have somewhat limited access in certain hospitals.” said Carbonneau.

Credit: Family Ways
Doula Rachel Frier Carbonneau

Doulas and hospitals around the D.C. area all tell WUSA9, with the exception of MedStar Washington Health Center, that they have strict visitation restrictions for an expectant mother’s room. 

Holy Cross Health reports delivering more than 10,000 babies last year – more than any other in Maryland. In a statement, it says: “We appreciate how difficult this can feel for a woman who has a birth plan. Our team of nurses are very well trained, incredibly caring, and work with each mom on her birth plan.”

Carbonneau added, "We’re trying to find other support systems within our community. A number of our families have considered switching to a home birth or a birth center where they may have more certainty about what their birth plan may look like."

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Snow's boyfriend Dwayne is at her side, but new hospital policies mean that he has to stay there the entire stay – he's not allowed to leave the hospital and come back.

Credit: Sara Snow
Sara Snow, boyfriend Dwayne, and daughter Ruby

“It is going to be harder on the person you choose to be in the room with you because they’re in with you the whole time, through labor, through everything. It’s nice to give them a break too," Snow said.

But Snow's brother, an important part of her first delivery, now has to settle for video chats.

Credit: Sara Snow
Sara Snow video chats with her brother before delivery

"For him not to be able to fly in and be here is really, really hard on him," she said.

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