Pregnancy in a Pandemic
Pregnancy or planning a pregnancy can naturally bring with a whole a range of questions and worries. Being pregnant during a pandemic that is affecting so many can understandably cause even more anxiety and worries during such an unprecedented time.
Rest assured however that on the data available there is no evidence that pregnant women are more likely to become seriously ill from coronavirus. Whilst pregnant women have been included in the list of people at moderate risk (clinically vulnerable) since the start of the pandemic this has always been as a precaution.
This is because pregnant women can sometimes be more at risk from viruses like flu. It’s not clear if this happens with coronavirus. But because it’s a new virus, it’s safer to include pregnant women in the moderate-risk group.
Similarly, whilst there is a small risk of the possibility if you have coronavirus to pass the infection to your baby before they are born, it is important to remember that in most of the reported cases of new-born babies developing coronavirus very soon after birth, the babies remained well.
Reassuringly, there is also no evidence that coronavirus causes miscarriage or affects how your baby develops in pregnancy.
Pregnancy is such an exciting time and with so many changes happening with your body, it understandable to want to meet friends and family to share the good news. However, if you’re pregnant, it’s important you follow the latest government guidance on staying alert and safe (social distancing) and avoid anyone who has symptoms suggestive of coronavirus. If you are in your third trimester (more than 28 weeks’ pregnant) you should be particularly attentive to social distancing and also:
- Keep mobile and hydrated to reduce the risk of blood clots in pregnancy
- Wash your hands regularly
- Stay active with regular exercise, a healthy balanced diet, and folic acid and vitamin D supplementation to help support a healthy pregnancy
- Attend all of your pregnancy scans and antenatal appointments unless you are advised not to
- Contact your maternity team if you have concerns about the wellbeing of yourself or your unborn baby
You may find that some of your midwife appointments are online, by phone or by video call – always check with your midwife if you are unsure, they are there to support you and help ensure you are seen when you need to be.
Hospitals and clinics are making sure it’s safe for pregnant women to go to appointments – you will only be asked to come in if it safe for you to do so and only if it’s necessary. You will also be asked to wear a mask and social distance to keep you and everyone around you safe.
Our Midwife Amina shares that ‘we know its worrying to go into hospital for appointments at this time – but we are doing everything to keep you well and safe. Like you, we’ll be wearing masks and social distancing – it may feel strange, but we are there to help and support you in keeping well during your pregnancy and after the birth of your baby.’
We all know that the idea of giving birth can be both exhilarating and also overwhelming at any time but more so during a global health crisis. You may be worried about if you will have support, if the hospital will be open for you or if you can have your partner with you.
We all know and recognize that having a birth partner is incredibly important for your safety and wellbeing during labour and birth. You’ll be able to have a birth partner with you during labour and the birth if they do not have symptoms of coronavirus. If your birth partner has symptoms, they may not be able to come with you. You might want to have a backup birth partner just in case.
However, it will depend on what your hospital’s policy is when your birth partner can attend and how long they can stay after the birth. Discuss with your midwife what restrictions may be in place and work out a plan that helps you feel safe and supported. There are also a range of things you can do to help you stay calm and relaxed in labour – whether at home or in hospital, and how your birth partner can support you – we cover this in detail and much more during our antenatal classes.
During our ‘Journey to Motherhood’ class we discuss in detail options and choices about where to have your baby – at home, in a birth centre or in the delivery suite of your hospital. Since the start of the pandemic our midwives, who all work in different maternity units in the UK, have advised on how services may have been affected and how different options may work differently as well as advising and supporting on finding the right option for you depending on the restrictions in place.
Generally, if you and your baby are well, you may be able to give birth at home, in a midwifery-led unit or in a birth centre.
If you’ve had any complications during your pregnancy you may be advised to give birth in a unit led by a doctor (obstetrician).
There may also be some changes to what usually happens where you plan to give birth, because of coronavirus.
Speak to your midwife or maternity team for more information on any changes to services in your local hospital.
If you have symptoms of coronavirus and go into labour, you’ll be advised to give birth in hospital under the care of an obstetrician. This is so the team can look after you and your baby more closely. Try not to worry, your maternity team have been advised on how to keep you and your baby safe. They will make sure you get the best care and respect your birth choices as closely as possible.
You may see the midwives and maternity team wearing aprons, masks or eye protection. These things are to keep you, your baby and the staff caring for you safe, and to stop the spread of infection.
You’ll be cared for in an area within the maternity unit that’s just for women with coronavirus, but having coronavirus should not have any impact on whether you have a vaginal or caesarean birth.
Regardless of a pandemic, the birth of your baby is a magical time. After your baby is born, you should be able to have skin-to-skin contact unless your baby is unwell and needs care in the neonatal unit. If all is well, dim the lights, focus in on your precious new baby and enjoy bonding time in that golden hour after birth.
You’ll also be encouraged to breastfeed. There’s no evidence coronavirus can be passed on to your baby in breast milk, so the benefits of breastfeeding and the protection it offers outweigh any risks. Your midwives will support you with breastfeeding and providing advice on any concerns that you may have.
As well as enjoying this time with your newborn baby, it’s important to be aware of any signs they might be unwell. At the moment it can be hard to know what to do – but trust your instincts and get medical help if you think your baby needs it.
You can also:
Get more information about coronavirus and pregnancy from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology