I am getting this question every day and thought I’d share what I hope is reassuring information for women.
Can I go to my gynecologist right now? Is it safe during COVID-19? I heard that I should avoid touching mucus membranes and isn’t that part of a pelvic exam?
Is there a guarantee that I won’t get Covid19 from visiting my doctor or nurse practitioner right now?
These are great questions and it’s important to ask. Please remember that COVID-19 is just one of many infections that we as healthcare providers are actively protecting our patients from. In healthcare offices, especially OB/GYN offices, there are stringent infection control guidelines that we have been following for decades to keep women safe from any infection.
That means that all instruments are washed and autoclaved (sterilized). Exam tables are wiped down between patients with powerful medical grade disinfectants. We wash our hands before and after each patient encounter. We wear gloves, masks, face shields or goggles to protect patients, our staff and ourselves. We disinfect high touch surfaces and objects.
In addition, here’s a sneak peak into an OB/GYN office: We have to test our autoclaves regularly to make sure that they work properly, and we keep logs so that it’s documented.
Everyone is trained to handle every specimen as if it is infectious.That means gloves, only having specimens in one part of the office. Using medical grade detergents and disinfectants. We clean everything that we use with patients every day. We are all serious about this and have been for over 40 years, when HIV/AIDs made PPE and stringent and well managed infection control protocols the norm and which have been working really well to protect people from any transmission of any infection.
Now, with COVID-19, OB/GYN offices are taking even more precautions: We screen each patient prior to their visit, we limit family members from attending the visit, we limit the number of people in the waiting rooms, we wipe down ALL surfaces after each patient interaction.
Remember that whenever we touch a person’s mucus membranes, we have always worn gloves, and that’s the same now. Pap smears are done with speculums that have been sterilized.
I wish we could provide people with 100% guarantees of perfect safety, but as you know we can’t say that. But. what I can say is I’m proud to say that at El Camino Women’s Medical Group in the heart of Silicon Valley, we have not had any patients, staff or providers acquire COVID-19.
And, this is in an office, where we have been seeing pregnant moms who need prenatal care and patients with emergency gynecologic issues throughout the pandemic. Our 4 doctors have been delivering over 30 babies each month at the hospital, where there are even more stringent guidelines.
In the last six weeks, we started seeing our regular patients and we are continuing to provide care that keeps everyone safe. We are also using state, local, and national guidance as well as evidence-based research whenever we need to modify our practices as the knowledge about COVID-19 expands.
Taking care of women is an honor, a privilege and there’s a responsibility to keep everyone safe.