Globally, 116 million babies are expected to be born during the 9 months following World Health Organization's recognition of the COVID pandemic. That's 116 million moms who are planning a birth under the coronovirus pandemic. So if you're reading this, and you're a mom-to-be, know that you're not alone. Read on to get first-hand advice from a few moms and moms-to-be who've been navigating a pandemic pregnancy and planning for birth during the pandemic.
If there’s one thing that’s common among us all right now, it’s that we’re navigating a world none of us ever expected. Big life changes, like moving house, changing jobs, and falling pregnant are still happening. But now, they’re happening against a background of a global pandemic and worldwide lockdown. So if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed and confused, you have every right to be. Today, we’re going to look at pregnancy and birth during the coronavirus pandemic.
Whether it’s your first or your fourth, being pregnant during a global pandemic will probably induce a bit of anxiety. Your doctor’s visits may have had to be reduced or increased, increasing your time in the hospital. The amount of support you have at home and with other kids may have disappeared. You might be navigating your upcoming maternity leave as you work from home. There’s a lot going on that you probably wouldn’t have been able to plan for.
One thing that helps is finding out how others have navigated similar situations. Nicole is expecting her second child shortly and is navigating this pregnancy under very different conditions to her first.
“My first daughter was premature — we spent weeks in NICU. I’m so worried about what we’ll have to deal with if this baby follows her example. Also, we’ve been told that my husband might not even be allowed into the delivery room! I try not to concentrate on it too much, but it’s quite stressful to imagine.”
The positive side of a pandemic birth
Lexi was also expecting her second child and gave birth just before the start of lockdown in March. “One thing other moms have asked me about was my time in the hospital. With Lily, my first, the ward was so busy and noisy, I found it hard to get any rest at all. With Callie, it was beautifully quiet. Sure, I couldn’t have any visitors, but neither could anyone else! I felt so much better rested by the time I got home.”
Lexi says that the first few weeks with her second babe were much simpler and calmer than those same weeks with her firstborn. “Since it was lockdown, we were all just at home. I could figure out demand breastfeeding for a second time around, without worrying about going out or looking remotely presentable. It was actually a great time for the whole family to bond and get to know our new member.”
Potential pandemic pitfalls
There are a few things that will be different when being pregnant and giving birth during this pandemic. Leigh gave birth to her first child in April when lockdown restrictions were at their height. “I feel slightly shortchanged by my experience. My partner was allowed into the delivery room, but only for about two hours before he was hustled out. I was sent home after one night after my natural birth, then had to spend weeks going back and forth to the hospital for our various checks while it seemed like everyone else got to hunker down at home. I have nothing to compare it to, but it felt very surreal.”
Ché just attended her 12-week scan at the hospital in London, “My husband wasn’t allowed in for this scan, which we were both pretty bummed about. To lighten it up, I decided to prank him. As soon as the scan was over, I phoned him on my way down to the parking lot and told him it was actually twins! His face — and his relief when I told him it was a joke — really helped to lift an otherwise sad situation!”
Some people will find it quite hard not to have their family close by for the birth and the first few weeks, but there are many cultures which enforce limited movement during the first 12 weeks after birth. If you can, use your enforced time at home to create a little bubble for you, your partner and any other children you have to get to know your new baby.
What happens if we get sick?
Firstly, this is a new virus. It’s hard to say conclusively what will happen if either mom or baby get COVID-19. That said, so far there is no evidence to show that pregnant moms get any sicker than the average person. Their risk is about equal.
Additionally, although there have been cases of newborn babies testing positive — having received the virus from their mother — all babies have gotten better. Lastly, there have been no cases where development was impacted by the virus, but since we are still in the early stages of this virus, that is something that could change.
How to stay well
Simply put: stay as far away from other people as you can. This includes working from home, ordering your groceries to be delivered, outsourcing shopping to a partner or close friend, and not going to social activities. It is known that pregnancy can suppress a woman’s immune system, and although your risk of getting sick is about equal to another adult, it is wise to just avoid other people as much as possible.
In addition, remember to wash your hands regularly, wear a mask when you do have to go out in public and sanitise your hands whenever you cannot wash them. These guidelines are in place to protect everyone, pregnant women included.
There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, and you would be forgiven for being a bit anxious about all the unknowns. Remember that your doctor should be able to answer any questions you might have, and although this pandemic is as a result of a new virus, your doctor is equipped to help you navigate your way through this situation with you.
Pregnant and worried about the new coronavirus?: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/pregnant-and-worried-about-the-new-coronavirus-2020031619212
What to Know About Coronavirus if You're Pregnant: https://www.whattoexpect.com/news/pregnancy/coronavirus-during-pregnancy/