HARLINGEN — Once again, yes, it’s safe to go to the hospital, when you’re having a stroke, a heart attack or … a baby.
Every day, Dr. Uvaldo Cantu, chief of staff at Valley Baptist Medical Center, hears the same comments and questions: “I heard I’m going to be delivering by myself in the hospital. Is it safe to go to the hospital? Am I going to get sick if I go to the hospital?”
Don’t fear, says Cantu. Valley Baptist has implemented strict protocols to make sure mothers-to-be can give birth safely.
“It starts with patient screening when she comes into the hospital,” said Cantu, an obgyn with more than 30 years experience.
“Everybody’s wearing a mask,” Cantu said. “The patient’s wearing a mask even during labor.”
Whereas two or three people, such as the woman’s mother and two other family members, could be in the delivery room before the pandemic, only one person can be there now.
“That person has to stay with them pretty much the whole time,” Cantu said. “They don’t expect that person to be going back and forth and going to McDonald’s and coming back. That individual is kind of contained awhile.”
If anyone arrives at Valley Baptist showing COVID-19 symptoms, the hospital has a test which reveals results in six hours. There are separate rooms with separate ventilation systems for COVID patients.
Stories abound from other parts of the country about COVID-positive mothers giving birth and not being able to hold their babies until they are no longer contagious. Has he seen any such cases here?
“There has been a patient that was positive in Harlingen and had a C-section,” he said. “The fact that the mother was positive was not the reason that the mom had a C-section. The baby went into isolation but we don’t know how long. The baby’s fine and the mom’s fine.”
Cantu was in New York City in the early 1980s when HIV first reared its ugly head. He made some sharp comparisons between HIV and COVID.
“I was finishing my residency and we didn’t know what to do,” he said. “HIV didn’t even have a name.”
A pregnant woman who had HIV would automatically have a C-section back then, but no more.
“Now it depends on the mom’s T-cells,” Cantu said. “If the T-cells are relatively low, the mom can have a normal delivery. We’ve come a long way with HIV. We’re nowhere near that with COVID.”
Obviously, COVID research is in its infancy, and understanding is an ever-changing process. Currently, there’s no hard evidence that COVID is transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy, Cantu said.
“I think there was one study that showed 33 patients, and out of 33 patients three babies tested positive,” he said. “However, the test wasn’t sure when they tested the baby, so more than likely it wasn’t in utero. So for the mom to give the virus to the baby while the baby’s in the womb, that has not been proven.”
So, to sum it all up, yes, come to the hospital and have your baby — it’s perfectly safe, doctors say.