New York hospitals must allow partners in the delivery room for birth, Department of Health says

  • The New York Department of Health pushed back against hospitals that are barring partners or other birth aides of expecting mothers from the delivery room in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. 
  • New York-Presbyterian and Mount Sinai Health System, two major hospital networks with some of the top maternal and infant care centers, were previously criticized for banning visitors in response to the coronavirus crisis. 
  • Other public health officials have disputed the visitor bans, as World Health Organization guidelines say that "having a companion of choice present during delivery" is part of "high-quality care before, during and after childbirth" promised to those giving birth during the outbreak.
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The New York Department of Health ramped up its guidelines disputing newly-instated hospital policies that dictate expecting mothers can't bring a partner or other visitor into the delivery room. 

The new policy was released on Friday, days after some of the state's most-high profile maternal and infant care centers issued controversial rules barring partners and other birth aides of expectant mothers from the delivery room as New York's novel coronavirus outbreak rapidly changed hospital recommendations.

The hospitals' no-visitor policies were criticized as a traumatic addition to childbirth and are in contrast with World Health Organization guidelines that state "having a companion of choice present during delivery" is part of "high-quality care before, during and after childbirth" promised to those giving birth amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement provided to Insider one day after the release, Mount Sinai said it was "reviewing the new guidelines," but did not commit to reversing the no-visitor policy.  

"As the pandemic continues to evolve, Mount Sinai Health System is taking proactive measures to provide the safest environment possible to protect our patients, staff, and visitors," the statement said. "We do not take this decision lightly, but these are unprecedented times that require unprecedented steps. We are reviewing the new guidelines but will make the best decisions for our patients, frontline staff and entire community."

NY-Presbyterian hospitals did not immediately return Insider's request for comment. 

Spencer Pitman and his wife Sarah are a Long Island City-based couple who welcomed their first child at Manhattan's Cornell-Weill hospital hours after the no-visitor policy took effect. Spencer told Insider that the policy was a shocking development in their postpartum care at the hospital. 

"It's like the fundamental fabric of society changes," Spencer said of the rule's effect on the labor process. "We would have thought about things differently."

While the Pitman's birth plans were upended by the coronavirus pandemic, Spencer, who had only an hour to spend with his wife after she'd given birth, said the unexpected policy change meant to lower risk of infection is "for the greater good."

"Neither of us is sick," Spencer said, "so I know it's not that bad — but the surprise is the issue."

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