It is normal and very expected for NICU parents to have a LOT of questions. Questions about what an NICU is, who all the people are, how all of the equipment works, what medications do, what are tests for and what do the results mean, what exams look for, what do certain diagnosis means, what should they expect, and what will happen for them as a family during their NICU journey.
When families have the ability to stay with their child around the clock, they are afforded the time and opportunity to ask those questions! Doctors, nurses, therapists and care managers are accessible and can be reached quite easily. The second benefit is that being in person, parents have time to hear those answers. They can hear the answer from multiple staff as well, getting the perspectives of multiple individuals.
With the current visitation restrictions and isolation rules due to COVID-19, parents are sharing that they are struggling to get their questions answered. Not only because they are limited in their time at the hospital, but they are also limited in access to those that can answer those questions when social distancing is in full force.
We want to help ANSWER those questions!
We wanted to be a resource for families so they could ASK their questions, and get answers from professionals who know the NICU world the best. Here are some of the most common questions we received, and what the answers were:
Q: I over heard the nurses talking during our visit this weekend that there may be a surge of patients admitted to the unit because several pregnant woman were admitted to labor and delivery that are positive for COVID-19. Does the virus cause problems in babies?
A: This is a great question. Currently, it is believed that COVID-19 does not cause any problems with the development or growth of babies, but it may increase the risk of preterm delivery. A recent rapid review of 23 studies examining COVID-19 in pregnancy, there was a reported preterm delivery rate of 47% (Smith, H. 2020. Impact of COVID-19 on neonatal health: Are we causing more harm than good? European Journal of Midwifery. Vol 4(8). DOI: https://doi.org/10.18332/ejm/120070)
If a labor and delivery unit is filling up with patients that are positive for Corona Virus, there would understandably be a concern that more babies may be born early and need care in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I commend the team there in your hospital for looking ahead and being willing to be prepared for what might come!
Q: Our friends had a baby in the NICU last year, and they told us how valuable the support groups were for them. What can we do now that support groups are all cancelled?
A: I am so sorry that you are not able to take advantage of the same support groups your friends were able to attend. This is certainly a difficult time, and not being able to participate in supportive events makes it even more difficult.
The good news is, there is some great support out there still for NICU families! One of the resources we would recommend most is the on-line LIVE support groups for NICU families offered by an organization called Hand-to-Hold. If you visit this page, https://handtohold.org/nicu-family-support/nicu-family-support-groups/ you will find information and the schedule of their hosted groups. They are offered in both English and Spanish, and are offered by incredible volunteers that are experts in family support.
Here at Patient+Family Care, we also offer an on-line support community that connects parents with one another through education, information, resource sharing and reflection. You can learn more about our offer at https://www.patientfamilycare.com/families.html.
Q: I want to breastfeed my baby but have tested positive for COVID-19. I have mild symptoms so I feel okay to participate in breastfeeding, but is it safe?
A: The World Health Organization believes that breastfeeding should continue and be supported during this particular epidemic, if appropriate precautions are put in place.
Breastfeeding is one of the best ways mothers can help boost their infant's immune system. And in the circumstance when a mother has an infectious disease, their body creates antibodies that help her fight the illness. That antibody is transferred to the baby through the breastmilk, which will then help protect them from the illness.
Unfortunately, due to many visitation restrictions that have had to be put in place to help keep babies and families safe, it will be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to breastfeed as much as you would like while your baby is in the NICU. What can you do? PUMP! Pump your breastmilk and get it to the staff caring for your baby so they can provide your milk at feedings. Don't have a pump? Ask the care team to recommend options for you. Many insurance companies now cover the cost of breast pumps and the staff can help you navigate how to work through the process of getting a pump.
Q: There is so much information out there on the Corona Virus, and more and more is coming out around pregnancy and neonatal care. How do I know what information is accurate and trustworthy?
A: The internet is FULL of great information, but it can also be a place of misinformation. Thankfully, one incredibly respected organization that advocates for women's health, pregnancy, labor & delivery, neonatal care and postpartum care, has launched a site dedicated to providing up to date and accurate information. A site that provides patients, families and experts with important research education.
The National Perinatal Association, is an organization that brings together people who are interested in perinatal care, so they can share and learn from one another. They have a diverse membership group that is made up of healthcare providers, parents, caregivers, educators and service providers. All of them are driven by their desire to support and advocate for families at risk.
Visit their latest webpage at http://www.nationalperinatal.org/COVID-19 in order to see the resources they have available, and check back often for any updates!
If you have questions, post them here or email us at email@example.com
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