If the worries about the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic are not already enough, some pregnant women have been questioning whether the hospital is a safe or safe enough place to deliver their babies and therefore whether they should deliver out-of-hospital during the pandemic. In the United States, planned out-of-hospital births are associated with significantly increased risks of neonatal morbidity and death. In addition, there are obstetric emergencies during out-of-hospital births that can lead to adverse outcomes, partly because of the delay in transporting the woman to the hospital. In other countries with well-integrated obstetric services and well-trained midwives, the differences in outcomes of planned hospital birth and planned home birth are smaller. Women are empowered to make informed decisions when the obstetrician makes ethically justified recommendations, which is known as directive counseling. Recommendations are ethically justified when the outcomes of one form of management is clinically superior to another. The outcomes of morbidity and mortality and of infection control and prevention of planned hospital birth are clinically superior to those of out-of-hospital birth. The obstetrician therefore should recommend planned hospital birth and recommend against planned out-of-hospital birth during the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased stress levels for all patients and even more so for pregnant patients and their families. The response in this difficult time should be to mitigate this stress and empower women to make informed decisions by routinely providing counseling that is evidence-based and directive.
Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; birth center; birth location; counseling; home birth; professional ethics in obstetrics; professional virtue of integrity; public health emergency.
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