Interim schedule for pregnant women and children during the COVID-19 pandemic
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The World Health Organization declared coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) a global pandemic. Pregnant women, newborns, and children due for vaccinations still require care during the pandemic. Given that there is a need to reduce the number of visits to the clinic, and women and children and their caregivers might wish to reduce exposure to others, the timing and frequency of visits can be adjusted. Many health care providers are transitioning to virtual visits instead of in-person visits whenever possible. The goal of this guide is to propose an interim well-child and prenatal visit schedule that providers can use and adapt to their local settings.
Ideally, patients with symptoms of suspected COVID-19 or with exposures (travel or contact with someone who tested positive) should be separated from the rest of the practice or treated at a separate time and by a separate team.1 At St Michael’s Hospital Family Health Team in Toronto, Ont, we have designated protected time slots for our more vulnerable patients, including pregnant women, newborns, and children due for vaccinations. Another goal is to schedule in-person prenatal visits to coincide with ultrasounds and other investigations to reduce the number of visits to the hospital or outpatient office.
If well-child visits are converted to virtual appointments, questionnaires such as the Rourke Baby Record2 and Nipissing District Developmental Screen3 can be e-mailed to parents before the appointment. Patients should be called before attending all appointments to screen for COVID-19 symptoms or risk factors and screened once again on presenting to the hospital or clinic. Patients and families also need to be made aware of the hospital and clinic policies on visitors and support persons during the COVID-19 pandemic. The interim schedules provided in this article are suggestions that can be tailored to local needs and resources (Figures 1 and 2). The guidance on COVID-19 is rapidly changing; therefore, providers need to stay up to date on new information and provincial and hospital policies.
Many health care providers in Canada follow the Rourke Baby Record for well-child visits.2 During the COVID-19 pandemic, if resources allow and visits can be done safely (eg, adequate screening and physical distancing in waiting rooms), well-child visits that incorporate immunizations should be continued.4–6 For all other well-child visits, providers can convert to virtual appointments (ie, telephone or video) or postpone the visit if there are no parental concerns.
Low-risk prenatal visits
For low-risk pregnancies, it is acceptable to adjust the routine prenatal visit schedule to align with the 2016 World Health Organization antenatal care model,7 the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada COVID-19 guideline,8 Nova Scotia Interim Guidance,9 and American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology maternal-fetal medicine guidance for COVID-19.10 Ideally, in-person prenatal visits should coincide with ultrasounds and other investigations to reduce the number of visits to the hospital or clinic. For visits after 24 weeks’ gestational age, perception of fetal movements can be used as a surrogate for fetal viability in lieu of a Doppler fetal monitor (ie, doptone). Instead of blood pressure measurement, providers can review with patients the clinical signs and symptoms of preeclampsia. If needed, providers can instruct patients to purchase a blood pressure monitor or to measure blood pressure at a local pharmacy. Maternal weight can be self-reported. Postpartum visits can also be done virtually.
At each visit, a responsible care provider must assess each woman to determine whether she is a candidate for an adjusted prenatal visit schedule as well as virtual care.11
We acknowledge the help of other members of the Family Medicine Obstetrics Group at St Michael’s Hospital and members of the Obstetrics Department at St Michael’s Hospital, including Drs Filomena Meffe, Howard Berger, and Eliane Shore, and members of the Pediatrics Department at St Michael’s Hospital, including Drs Tony Barozzino and Douglas Campbell. We also acknowledge the suggestions provided by members of the Family Medicine Obstetrics Group at North York General Hospital, including Drs Lara Rosenberg and David Eisen, and suggestions from Dr Allan Grill, Chief of Family Medicine at Markham Stouffville Hospital.
We encourage readers to share some of their practice experience: the neat little tricks that solve difficult clinical situations. Praxis articles can be submitted online at http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/cfp or through the CFP website (www.cfp.ca) under “Authors and Reviewers.”
- Competing interests
- Copyright© the College of Family Physicians of Canada
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