Even under ideal circumstances, pregnancy can be quite an anxiety-inducing and nerve-wrecking time. You want everything to go as well as possible, whilst worrying that something may go wrong. For mums who have been pregnant during the COVID-19 pandemic, the stressful nature of pregnancy has often been amplified to the extreme.
Not only is the experience of pregnancy now hugely different from before, with medical appointments being restricted to mum alone and other face-to-face support and birth preparation classes cancelled. There is also the frightening new data that tells us pregnant women with COVID-19 are more likely to give birth prematurely and to develop COVID-19 complications. There is no sugar-coating it: this is a scary time to be pregnant.
In this blog post, three mums who are currently pregnant or have given birth during in recent times describe their experience of having a baby during the pandemic. Read on to learn about the struggles they have faced and what guidance they can give to other mums in the same situation.
Getting pregnant in the pandemic
Ruth found out she was pregnant with her fourth baby in September last year, just when the coronavirus alert level in the UK moved to level 4. This pregnancy came as a surprise for Ruth’s family, leaving her feeling a mixture of happiness, guilt, and fear.
How did you feel when you found out you were pregnant?
It was a mixture of feelings for me! I suffered from terrible PTSD after my last pregnancy, so the thought of having to do most of it alone was terrifying as I needed to have my husband beside me. We did contemplate not keeping the baby, which absolutely riddles me now with guilt but it’s such a horrible world now that I wasn’t sure if I could do it. However, it did ease my mind a bit now that I should have the support I need.
Do you feel more assured now with the revised coronavirus NHS guidelines that allow for one asymptomatic birth partner be present at all stages of your pregnancy journey?
We’re not actually allowed partners still. So in December I hadn’t been to a NHS scan, just the private one we booked. And now with another national lockdown, I’m worried about a U-turn in labour decisions. I wish more thought was given to women in pregnancy, it has been so hard in this situation. I’m having FaceTime midwife apps the lot they just don’t seem to think they’re important which of course they are! I just wish all the advice across the board was the same and not different to each hospital.
Under the UK’s coronavirus regulations brought in mid-2020, expecting mums were required to go to appointments and scans alone. In December 2020, NHS revised the guidelines and announced that an expectant mother should have partner support “at all stages of her maternity journey”. This applies to prenatal appointments, scans, labour and delivery, and neonatal visits. One person should soon be allowed to accompany mums-to-be during hospital visits; however, this rule varies depending on the living area and the lockdown tier applied to that area.
Adjusting to the new ‘normal’
For Sophie, a mum from Berlin, her first pregnancy has been very different from what she imagined. In the pandemic, a cute baby gender reveal party, a surprise baby shower, or having new pregnant friends at a prenatal yoga class, is out of question. At 36 weeks pregnant, Sophie found it emotionally draining trying to adjust to the new ‘normal’.
What is the hardest part for you about being pregnant in the pandemic?
The hardest part for me and my husband is the fact he is not allowed to attend all my ultrasound and hospital appointments! He was also not allowed access during the registration at the hospital but will thankfully be allowed to join me during childbirth. I find it emotionally draining that I cannot meet my friends and family and share my pregnancy with them. It can get quite lonely spending all my time at home, but at the same time I am glad that I have not had an obligation to go to work since pregnancy week 13. I work as a nurse and once I announced my pregnancy at work, I was relieved of my work duty, which was welcome news to me. It makes me a little bit sad that I couldn‘t attend any pregnancy yoga classes or pregnancy swimming/gymnastic classes and our birth preparation course was via Zoom. I would have preferred it live, to meet other pregnant women. Unfortunately our baby party had to be cancelled and we couldn‘t go on a babymoon holiday, due to COVID restrictions.
I feel like there are a lot of things that we missed out during the pregnancy. But overall, I am very grateful that me, my husband and our family has been stayed healthy and well during the pandemic and we had no COVID cases around us.
What advice would you give to other expecting mums?
I can give every expecting mum the advice to do a lot of research to find a hospital and doctor/midwife that allows your partner to join you for the birth and consultations. I think it‘s so important to have your partner with you.
Also try to join online birth prep courses or even online pregnancy yoga classes, there are also great Facebook groups or Instagram blogs where you can share your experiences with other expecting mothers. :) You could even do a Zoom baby party! Most important, just stay calm and relaxed for your baby and try to concentrate on the positive things. This is just a phase that will eventually be over and you will end the lockdown with a smiling baby in your arms.
Many expecting mums have voiced their fears about going through pregnancy without proper support, and the loss of a hopeful time that was meant to be celebrated with loved ones. These fears are totally valid, and it is important that you reach out for help when you need it. Don´t be afraid to seek help from your partner, your family, your friends, your community, or maternity experts. Visit our support community on Instagram or ask Lola&Lykke experts any question related to your maternal health, pregnancy, or the slightest anxiety you might be feeling. Remember, help is always near, the only thing you need to do is ask for it.
Learn more: Ask Lola&Lykke Experts, free of charge.
Finding the bright side
Zara, a prenatal and postnatal personal trainer from Spalding, gave birth just under a month ago. She welcomed her third baby with a very positive experience despite all the restrictions. Zara managed to document her birth story with a bright smile in her Youtube channel.
Image: @zarabyrd on Instagram
How was your experience giving birth in the pandemic? Was it a lot different from your previous pregnancies?
My overall experience was really positive, but it was so different to my previous pregnancies having to attend scans alone. Beforehand I felt so much more worried, nervous and scared knowing there wasn’t a familiar face in the room or hand to hold. But the midwifes and nurses were always so supportive and reassuring. My husband ended up actually missing my labour due to the restrictions in place and missed it by a few minutes. I was induced in the hospital, so he was allowed there for three hours after the induction started but then had to leave until they took me down to labour ward. When they decided to take me down to labour ward and saw that I was now 4cm I let my husband know to come, he left immediately. However, I ended up having an extremely quick active labour which was 22 minutes. 15 minutes after the internal my waters broke and within 7 minutes I’d gone from 4cm-10 and Tommy was born. Tom arrived moments later: if it wasn’t for the pandemic Tom would have been allowed to be there throughout the birth and he wouldn’t have missed it.
Did you feel supported and assured by the hospital staff?
The midwifes were brilliant and so friendly throughout. They went the extra mile to give me the most positive experience possible, from running me aromatherapy baths, to getting me birthing balls and letting me be monitored around the room. Overall, I’d say my pregnancy experience was positive despite the pandemic. Even though it wasn’t like before, the care I received was exceptional throughout!
The Guttmacher Institute reported that COVID-19 has resulted in approximately a third of people who could become pregnant to rethink their decision to have children, or how many children they want to have. It has certainly put a big burden on expecting parents, and many pregnant women are left with added stress and anxiety. What you can do to relieve this added stress and anxiety is to familiarise yourself with your local Covid-guidelines and to seek out help that may be delivered in alternative ways. You may not be able to attend in-person antenatal classes, but there is lots of online support available and plenty of dedicated medical experts willing to help.
Learn more: Coronavirus & Pregnancy tips and facts.
To help support and prepare mums, Lola&Lykke is proud to launch its own series of online antenatal and postnatal education in January 2021. No one can quite prepare you for the feeling of finding out that you are pregnant, but what we definitely can prepare you for is your pregnancy journey, the experience of giving birth, and those precious early weeks with your new baby.
In this series of videos, we will take you through what to expect from each stage and give you tips and useful tools to manage symptoms and situations. We will equip you with the knowledge and confidence to approach birth without fear and to help you navigate the first few weeks as a new parent.
We will also guide you through the physical and hormonal changes happening in your body during and after pregnancy. The course content has been compiled by our team of medical experts and maternity physiotherapists to provide you with all the expert clinical knowledge you need to feel empowered as you approach childbirth and the postpartum months.