Allow partners into prenatal appointments and sonograms

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AN OPEN LETTER TO GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO:

ALLOW SUPPORT PERSONS INTO PRENATAL AND SONOGRAM APPOINTMENTS

We, the undersigned, are asking Governor Cuomo to issue an executive order authorizing a support person to accompany an individual to any appointment regarding fertility, prenatal care, postpartum care and obstetric sonograms. 

Hospital systems across New York State are not allowing partners or support persons to attend medical appointments. Birthing people find themselves alone in their fertility, prenatal, sonogram, and postpartum visits with healthcare providers. These appointments are fraught with emotion, and often include test results, recommendations, and decisions that have an impact on the mother and baby. During prenatal and sonogram appointments new parents can learn about the loss of a baby or a complication that was previously unknown. In prenatal care birthing people are faced with news about their health or their baby’s health and asked to make huge, life-altering decisions about their care. In prenatal appointments the need for support is arguably just as important as support during the labor and delivery of the baby. 

The guidance from New York State Department of Health issued to hospital operators on May 20, 2020, outlines restrictions on visitors to hospital settings except in the case of patients in labor and delivery, pediatrics patients, patients with cognitive impairments, and end-of-life situations. In order to comply with this restrictive visitation policy hospital systems have disallowed patients to have support persons and/or partners attend fertility, prenatal, sonogram, and postpartum care appointments in office settings. The text from this guidance is as follows:

“Effective immediately, hospitals must continue to suspend all visitation except for patient support persons, or family members and/or legal representatives of patients in imminent end-of-life situations; provided, however, that hospitals may enroll in the pilot hospital visitation program and adhere to the guidelines established therein.

Hospitals that do not enroll in such pilot are only required to permit patient support persons at the patient bedside for:

Patients in labor, delivery, and the remainder of the patients’ admission;
Pediatric patients;
Patients for whom a support person has been determined to be essential to the care of
the patient (medically necessary) including patients with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities and patients with cognitive impairments including dementia; and
Patients in immediate end-of-life situations.”
Earlier this year Governor Cuomo issued an executive order authorizing at least one support person to accompany a pregnant individual for the duration of their stay in any hospital, birthing facility, or postpartum unit, as medically appropriate. The recognition of the need for support in this executive order needs to be extended to the prenatal time. Pregnant people should not be alone as they navigate their medical appointments during pregnancy just as they should not be alone during labor, birth, and postpartum. 

The value of having a support person attend medical appointments can not be overstated. These appointments are often quick and there is a lot of information given to the patient at one time. Pregnant people deserve to have a support person accompany them to take notes, ask questions, and provide emotional support as they navigate their childbearing journey.

Additionally, partners are currently being left out of appointments where they are visualizing their baby for the first time, learning of twins or triplets, finding out about the loss of a baby, or learning of dangerous medical conditions. To deprive partners of the chance to see their babies and be an active participant in the medical decisions being made for their family is cruel and unnecessary. 

Right now the rules surrounding partners and/or support persons in fertility, prenatal, sonogram, and postnatal appointments are largely dependent on the practice they have chosen. Private practices that are not affiliated with a hospital system are allowing partners to attend these appointments. Practices and clinics that are affiliated with hospital systems are being forced to ask partners to stay home in order to comply with Department of Health guidelines. To have different rules for different practices which limit care and access to support for birthing people is a step backwards in the fight against maternal mortality. People with the option for private providers are being given this privilege often while underserved communities that lack resources and have poorer maternal and fetal outcomes are being forced into minimally supportive prenatal care situations. All birthing people must have the support they need to have a healthy birth and postpartum time. The support must begin during office visits and sonogram appointments. 


Signed,

Kaitlin McGreyes, Mother, Doula, Founder of Be Her Village, Founding Board Member of Maternal Spotlight

Melanie Sumersille, CNM, FACNM

Christina Kocis, CNM, DNP, FACNM; Director of Midwifery Division at Stonybrook University Medical Center

Laura Siddons, Co-President, Long Island Doula Association, Inc.; Co-Founder, The Nesting Place

Colleen Heinze, CNM, WHNP, Owner/Founder of Gaia Midwives, PLLC

Melissa Murphy, Owner/Founder of Boho Birthing 

Michele H. Liot, RN, CNM

Shilpa Londhe, PhD MHA Adjunct Associate Professor, Health Administration, Hofstra University; Founder of Maternal Spotlight, a non-profit maternal health organization; Health Economist at Deloitte

Janel Duffy, Mother, Director of Content for Be Her Village, Inc.; Founding Board Member of Maternal Spotlight 

Susanna B. Gatz, Certified Doula, Owner/Founder of HeartShine Doula & Wellness

Jessica Dennehy, Mother, Certified Doula, Board Member of Long Island Doula Association, Lactation Counselor, Postpartum Doula

Gail Janicola, Author, The Ultimate Birth Experience, Founder - Moms On Top, Certified Childbirth Educator, Birth Coach, National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Doula Trainer - Long Island Doula Association

Liuba Grechen Shirley, Founder and CEO, Vote Mama

Sara Topping, Co-Founder and Executive Director of East End Birth Network, Inc., Certified Doula, LMT

Ashley J. Meccariello, RN, CNM Owner/Founder of Gaia Midwives, PLLC

Mary Betsellie, CD, Co-founder of Traditional Doula and Midwifery Arts, owner of Sacred Space Birth Services, founding board member of NYCPM, Inc.

Janalyn Pomeroy, Certified Birth & Postpartum Doula, Long Island Doula Association Council Member, Certified Lactation Counselor, Owner/Founder of Moments to Breathe, LLC 

Heather Simonson, LCSW, CSE, CST, RPYT, Owner of Sea Change Holistic Wellness Center