Without any doubt, we are living in stressful times. As governments around the world start easing restrictions and thinking about how to transition back to “normal”, the recommendations about what people should and shouldn’t do have started to shift. From going back to work to being able to meet friends and family while maintaining social distancing, no one is more anxious than expecting parents. To help ease some of your anxieties, here are the answers to some of the questions you may have.
Should I be worried about getting seriously ill from coronavirus?According to the UK government, pregnant women are considered clinically vulnerable people, which means they should be especially careful in following advice on social distancing and staying at home as much as possible. But are expecting mothers more at risk of getting coronavirus? Will the child be at risk of catching the virus in the womb if the mother is diagnosed with it? And what are the effects this new disease will have on the new-born baby? Unfortunately, as we’re just beginning to learn about the virus, many questions still remain unanswered. According to the NHS, “There’s no evidence that pregnant women are more likely to get seriously ill from coronavirus but because it’s a new virus, it’s safer to include pregnant women in the moderate-risk group.” A study published on May 11th, 2020 has shown that of 427 women admitted to the hospital when pregnant and infected with coronavirus, only 1 in 10 required intensive care. Although the size of this study is very limited, some factors were identified that posed pregnant women more at risk of being admitted to the hospital with coronavirus:
- Being in the third trimester of pregnancy
- Being from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds
- Being over the age of 35
- Being overweight or obese
- Having pre-existing medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes
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Will the risk for me and my baby increase after their birth?Although there is no evidence that women who have recently given birth and their newborns are at increased risk of contracting the virus, close observation of hygiene precautions is extremely important among all members of your household and visitors. All visitors should always adhere to the government’s social distancing guidelines. It is important not to put off seeking medical advice if you have any concerns about your baby’s health. After lockdown restrictions have eased, it’s still advisable to avoid large family gatherings to celebrate the baby’s arrival. Experts recommend staying home as much as possible and avoiding any unnecessary social gatherings. Taking your kids to public places where large numbers of people gather in close contact, such as shopping centres and playgrounds, is also discouraged.
Should I plan a pregnancy during the pandemic?Becoming a parent is a personal choice and there are many factors to take into consideration when preparing to add a member to your family. While planning a pregnancy is not discouraged, it is important to consider the risk of coronavirus transmission associated with frequently coming into contact with healthcare workers during pregnancy. When it comes to extending your family, knowledge is key and it is vital to gather as much information as possible on everything you should know about the coronavirus when you are pregnant.
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Are there any changes to the kind of medical support I will receive?One of the most stressful parts of being pregnant is having hundreds of questions. During these unprecedented times, it’s extremely important to remind all mamas-to-be that their concerns are valid, and they deserve all the attention – medical and non – they need, even during a global pandemic. This is also the opinion of the World Health Organisation, which states that “All pregnant women, including those with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infections, have the right to high-quality care before, during and after childbirth.” However, it’s important to consider that hospitals are doing everything they can to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which sometimes include changing policies that are not going to accommodate everyone’s birth plans. Although hospital visits have been limited, it’s important to remember that in the UK you are still encouraged to
- Have a midwife with you when you give birth
- Have a birth partner (it is a good idea to have a backup birth partner in case your designated one shows symptoms of coronavirus, in which case they may not be allowed during labour)
- Have skin-to-skin contact with your baby
- Breastfeed, as there is no evidence the virus can be passed to your newborn in breast milk
I’m worried about getting ill from coronavirus. Should I still go to the hospital for appointments?It is still advised you go to all your pregnancy scans and appointments unless you are told not to. However, to keep you and everyone else safe, you may have to go on your own and wear a face mask when you’re in the hospital or clinic. Some consultations will also be available online, by phone or video call, so you don’t need to travel to the hospital when unnecessary. If you feel uncertain about going to the hospital during labour and you and your baby are well, you may choose to give birth at home. If you’re in self-isolation for suspected or confirmed coronavirus, you should contact your midwife or antenatal clinic to inform them and ask for advice on going to check-ups. Routine appointments will be delayed unless your midwife or doctor advises that they cannot wait. In this case, the necessary arrangements will be made to protect you and others.
I’m feeling stressed. How can I care about my mental well-being?Without the extra in-person support new or expecting parents could rely on before the pandemic, it’s easy to feel stressed and isolated. Here are a few steps you can take to take care of your mental health:
- Information is power. Talk to your medical provider about any doubts and concerns
- Take a birth class. We live in a digital age, which means many powerful resources are available for mamas-to-be to stream from the comfort of their own home
- Make virtual social connections with your friends and family to avoid feeling isolated
- Give your partner a role. If you’re in charge of breastfeeding, for example, let your partner be in charge of calming your baby and getting them to sleep
- Get fresh air every day. Go on a stroll around the neighbourhood if you can, or simply sit outside for a few minutes.
- Take a break from social media. While it may be tempting to turn to the internet for comfort and validation, be careful. It may feel overwhelming to be bombarded by thousands of people criticising your choices and offering unsolicited advice while they post about their seemingly perfect life. Do not fall for the social media trap. No one has it together and we’re all constantly learning how to be humans and how to be mothers. And remember, only you know yourself and your baby. Trust your instinct and enjoy the journey
- Take it one day at a time and remember that you got this, mama. You’ll do great! These may be scary times, but they will help you raise the next generation to be better humans.
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