Pregnancy is already a time of great change in one’s life, with many unknowns unfolding and many corresponding emotions in the mix. Add to this a global pandemic, stir, and voila – you are probably not having the greatest time right now.
Most pregnant women can share that they are feeling anxious and afraid in this time. They are concerned over their own safety and that of their unborn baby. They are worried about how COVID-19 will influence their birth experience. They are feeling disappointed and angry over the baby shower and the gender reveal party that they will now never have. They are probably even more concerned over job security and income than the rest. All of this is understandable.
But knowledge is power. Below are some facts on Covid19 in pregnancy, as well as a few proactive and positive steps that you can take to protect yourself physically and emotionally in this very special time of your life.
What do we know about COVID-19 in pregnancy?
While it is true that there is still a lot that we don’t know about the virus, we do know substantially more than we did 6 months ago. Currently, there is unfortunately not yet enough data on COVID-19 in pregnancy to accurately provide percentages and statistics.
We do know though that pregnant women might be at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness and are more likely to need hospitalisation and ventilation. COVID-19 also slightly increases the risk of pregnancy complications like premature birth. (www.cdc.gov.com)
However, the good news is that pregnant women do not seem to be at a higher risk of death from Covid-19 than non-pregnant women. And the fact remains that in most cases (as in the rest of the population) symptoms are mild to moderate and recovery seems to be complete.
Protect yourself – stay vigilant
By now everyone is tired of masks and isolation and distancing. But the truth is that we need it now more than ever before. So call on that inner reserves and strength (a good skill for when you become a mama) and try to wait it out till the storm has passed.
You must know that one can most certainly get Covid-19 while buying groceries or running errands, but contact tracing shows us that most infections probably take place during more prolonged contact with an infected person. This would include contact during social events and visits, or contact in the workplace.
Some of the above cannot be avoided, for example if your work is of such a nature that you cannot do it from home. But most social events can be managed or skipped. If you are going to be in contact with other people, the following tips will help you to stay safe:
- Masks matter. But remember that a cloth mask’s main function is to prevent transmission from one sick person to another, so it doesn’t help if you wear yours but those around you don’t comply. Luckily wearing masks is now mandatory and you will be well within your rights to request that other people stick to this rule.
- Add a screen – although a splatter screen is not generally indicated for people in low-risk environments, it cannot do harm so consider wearing one when you go shopping or are between other people.
- Ensure natural ventilation – take it outside, or open doors and windows. Luckily for us, spring is (almost) in the air. Good ventilation dissipates droplets in the air and decreases the viral load, significantly lowering the chance of transmission.
- Know that anyone can be contagious. Just because someone looks healthy doesn’t mean that they aren’t sick and just don’t know it yet. So stick to the rules, even if it is your best friend or a family member with whom you would let your guard down under usual circumstances.
Stick to your doctor’s appointments
People at this time are scared of medical practices and hospitals. But antenatal care is crucially important. Remember that Covid-19 hasn’t cancelled out all other health problems ever known. So make sure you see your midwife or doctor at the scheduled times.
If you need reassurance, ask about preventative measures in place and request some of your own if you feel that it is needed. For example, you can wait in your car and ask them to give you a call when it is time for you to be seen.
Take care of your health
The stronger and healthier your body is, the more able it is to fight off any infection, including Covid-19.
- Be sure to eat healthily. We know this is challenging and that you may be craving some comfort food right now. But you will feel the results of a healthy diet and this becomes a motivation in its own.
- Get some fresh air and exercise. There are many parks, gardens or other venues where offering walking trails if you feel like getting out. Or simply add an afternoon walk around the block. Most pilates and yoga instructors also offer online classes at this time.
- Take your pregnancy supplements and make sure that you have a month’s extra supply.
- Take some general immune boosters like Vitamin C and Zinc
Get some sunshine!
A Vitamin D shortage is one of the most common shortages in pregnant women. Vitamin D is not only good for your mood and emotional well-being, but there is also some evidence showing that it plays a protective role during Covid-19 infection specifically.
Most people don’t get enough sunshine to ensure sufficient Vitamin D production. In pregnancy being in the sun for long periods is definitely not recommended, because it can cause pigmentation marks.
The average pregnant supplement doesn’t contain enough Vitamin D and extra supplementation is needed.
Invest time in your mental and emotional well-being
This is easier said than done, with so much outside noise. It’s important to realise that this is something that’s going to take some conscious effort.
- Ration social media time – the internet is flooded with scary facts and negative predictions around the pandemic. People are angry and anxious. You don’t need this right now.
- Work hard at creating a safe and positive mental space for your pregnancy and your family.
- Spend time doing things you love – read a good book, listen to music, do some art or pursue a hobby.
- Keep a journal – this will help you to word your emotions and to deal with your concerns.
- Download a meditation app (there are many) and learn how to use relaxation techniques and meditation in your daily living.
Prepare for once baby arrives
You know already that you may have less support than usual. You can help to counteract some of that in advance:
- Cook and freeze meals for the early weeks with baby.
- Get in touch with a lactation consultant in your area and find out if she will be available for support, should you struggle with breastfeeding.
- Talk with your partner on how you would like to deal with some practicalities after the birth, for example, how are you going to deal with family who wants to visit (something that is still not allowed in the lockdown period at the time of writing this blog).
Lastly, remember that no matter what is happening on the outside, this is still your pregnancy and your entry into motherhood. Make sure that you find joy in all the blessings that you do have, and that you let go of things you cannot control. Your baby will one day be able to say that he/she was born in the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic!