Covid is tough, it has caused a lot of anxiety, especially amongst parents-to-be. When Covid-19 first arrived, we knew very little about the virus. Pregnant women were assumed to be at higher risk of complications and, because of these safety concerns, they were advised to take precautions. What should have been an empowering and special time in life soon became filled with fear and uncertainty?
Thankfully, we are now in a much better place with Covid-19. Scientists and researchers have studied the virus intensively over the past couple of years. The virus itself has changed, too, which is a positive thing. Although the virus is now more transmissible, it is also causing milder symptoms in those who catch it. This is good news. It means that you are less likely to suffer serious complications if infected.
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19 is an acute respiratory virus. Most people infected with Covid-19 will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without treatment. However, some people will experience severe symptoms and require medical attention. People with underlying medical conditions and the elderly are at an increased risk from Covid-19.
The main symptoms of Covid-19 are:
- Dry cough
Other less common symptoms include:
- Loss of taste or smell
- Blocked nose
- Sore throat
- Muscle or joint aches
- Skin rashes
- Nausea or vomiting
- Chills or dizziness.
Covid is tough in pregnancy.
Earlier variants of Covid-19 were thought to put pregnant women at higher risk of complications. News reports from early in the pandemic mention pregnant patients in intensive care units and babies delivered early. The picture is now much more positive.
Preliminary data suggest Omicron causes a milder illness, even during pregnancy. Omicron seems to produce cold symptoms, even in pregnant women, making it an improvement on previous variants. There is no increased risk of pregnancy complications for a pregnant woman diagnosed with Covid.
This article will cover the basics about Covid-19 during pregnancy, tips for handling Covid anxiety, and how Covid has changed pregnancy.
To find out more about Covid during pregnancy, look at Coronavirus (Covid-19) And Pregnancy – All Your Questions Answered.
Am I more at risk of Covid-19 in pregnancy?
Pregnant women are not at an increased risk of catching Covid-19. Your overall risk of Covid remains the same as for non-pregnant women. However, during pregnancy, your immune system is suppressed to protect your developing baby. This means you might catch more colds and viral infections than you would otherwise. Due to this, experts worldwide are urging pregnant women to be cautious of Covid-19 even though they are not high risk.
So far, research shows pregnant women are no more likely to catch Covid-19 than other healthy adults. Around two-thirds of pregnant women are asymptomatic. The vast majority of symptomatic pregnant women experience mild symptoms, much like the common cold. The rate of severe illness during pregnancy is very low. You can be reassured, then, that even if you do catch coronavirus, you are unlikely to be severely ill.
Pregnant with Covid – what to do
If you are experiencing Covid-19 symptoms, you should take a Covid test. If you have tested positive, you should notify your healthcare provider or midwife. They will advise you on what to expect and how to manage the condition at home. It is best to inform your midwife so she can offer specific medical advice tailored to pregnancy and ensure you receive the appropriate medical care.
The overwhelming majority of pregnant women can stay home with Covid. You should ensure you get lots of rest, eat a healthy, balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids. You should be feeling much better within a few days.
If you are having trouble breathing, seek help without delay.
If you’d like to read about BellyBelly midwife Irene’s experience of having Covid-19 during pregnancy, look at Pregnant With (Coronavirus) Covid-19 Symptoms Risks and Effects.
Does Covid affect baby in the womb?
There have been cases of mothers passing Covid-19 on to their unborn babies in utero. This sounds scary but the babies recovered from the illness. There is no research to suggest that Covid-19 causes miscarriage or affects how your baby develops in the womb. Covid has not been found to cause birth defects or preterm births.
Attending prenatal check-ups during Covid-19
Your prenatal checks are vital to keeping you and your baby safe during pregnancy. At each appointment, your midwife ensures both you and your baby are in good health, provides up-to-date health advice, and monitors you for potential complications. So please continue to attend your prenatal checks and scans during the pandemic.
During the pandemic, you might find that:
- Early appointments might be online or by phone rather than an in-person visit
- You are asked to wear a mask during your appointments
- Your healthcare provider wears a mask and PPE throughout your appointment
- There’s a limit on the number of people who can attend scans with you.
If you are nervous about attending your prenatal appointments, please call your midwife or healthcare provider beforehand to explain. They will talk you through the safety measures and disease control to protect you from Covid-19 during your appointment.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of Covid-19, you should alert your midwife before the appointment. You might be asked to reschedule or take a Covid test.
Pregnancy, Covid-19, and working
During the early months of the pandemic, many pregnant women were protected at home during lockdowns. With lockdowns easing, however, many have gone back to the workplace and are wondering whether this is safe with Covid still around.
First, this is something you should discuss with your boss. If you feel unsafe at work, you should raise your concerns with your manager or Human Resources department. It’s their job to ensure you are safe in the workplace.
You might prefer to remain remote working for the duration of your pregnancy. However, this isn’t always possible. Not all jobs can be done remotely, so you might need to think of other ways to keep yourself safe at work. Air filtration, well-fitting masks, social distancing, and regular testing for all staff will help to reduce the risk of in-work transmission.
How to handle Covid anxiety
Many people suffered from Covid anxiety during the height of the pandemic. The 24-hour news cycle of clickbait articles, online rumors, and the fear of the unknown meant many of us doom scrolled our way through the first lockdown.
Now that Covid-19 is milder and restrictions are easing, you might be wondering how to keep your Covid anxiety under wraps. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of protecting our mental health.
Here are some handy hints to help you tackle your Covid anxiety:
Stop doom scrolling
Yes, you can do it. Doom scrolling brings nothing but fear and worry. Put down your phone. It’s important to stay up-to-date with local restrictions but you don’t need to consume news 24 hours a day to do this. Ban yourself from obsessively checking for Covid news. Mute all Covid chat on your social media channels. Give yourself a social media break, if it helps.
Focus on the things you can control
You can make decisions and implement measures in your own life to protect yourself from Covid-19. You can wear a mask, keep your distance and limit your social interactions. You cannot dictate government policy, rid the planet of Covid-19 or move to the moon. Focus on the things you can control and push the other stuff out of your mind.
Get outside every day
Spending time in nature can help to lift your mood and make you feel more positive. When you’re feeling anxious, you might want to hide away at home. Don’t. Get out of the house each and every day. You don’t have to go anywhere crowded or do anything you feel is unsafe. Going for a walk in your local park could help to clear your head.
Take care of yourself
We often feel most anxious when we aren’t taking care of ourselves. If you aren’t getting enough sleep or eating well, this can make you feel worse. Doing the little things can make a big difference. Try to get enough sleep, exercise each day, and eat a healthy, balanced diet. Each healthy homecooked meal is an act of love to yourself. If you know certain things make you feel worse, don’t do them.
Focus on your baby
Mindfulness is brilliant for easing anxiety. Just spending a few minutes each day practicing mindfulness can help you perfect the skill. It’s something you can do easily at home by yourself. Simply get comfy, lower the lights, and put on some relaxing music. Check-in with yourself: How do you feel today? Where are your pregnancy aches and pains right now? Spend some time focusing on your baby and your changing body. If you find this difficult to do, there are lots of pregnancy-related guided meditations online you could try.
How Covid-19 has changed pregnancy
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed pregnancy in several ways. For women pregnant at the height of the pandemic, Covid meant online baby showers, attending scans alone, and being allowed out of the house for only an hour a day. Thankfully, those early lockdown days are behind us, but that doesn’t mean pregnancy is back to how it was.
Here are some ways pregnancy is different, thanks to Covid-19:
Antenatal classes have changed
Typically, antenatal classes meant a room full of pregnant women and their nervous partners hearing all the wonderful details of birth and beyond. However, during the pandemic, these classes went online, which meant it was more challenging for the parents-to-be to form connections. It’s so important in the early days to have other friends who are going through the same things as you are, but Covid-19 made these connections harder to make.
As restrictions ease, we hope antenatal classes will revert to in-person courses. Try to find in-person classes in your local area if you feel it’s safe to do so. If you’d like to meet other pregnant women, you could also attend yoga classes, aqua natal classes, and hypnobirthing classes in your local neighborhood.
Reduced baby showers
During the pandemic, baby showers took place on Zoom with virtual quizzes and a screen full of awkward faces. Now, thankfully, baby showers are taking place in-person again but your baby shower could still be affected by Covid-19. Vulnerable friends and family members might not feel safe attending a big party. You might notice more absences as people stay away with Covid-19 symptoms.
Pregnancy is a daunting time and you’ll always be able to find something to worry about. Covid-19 has simply added a whole new genre to the already huge list of pregnancy worries. Hopefully, now that Covid is more manageable and countries are easing their restrictions, it will cause fewer worries for all of us. If you are concerned about Covid-19, speak to your midwife about it. Don’t forget to try out the tips above for reducing your Covid anxiety.
Questions to ask your midwife during Covid
It’s always a good idea to take a list of questions to each prenatal appointment. Any questions or worries you have can be jotted down in a notebook to remind you to ask your healthcare provider for the answers.
The pandemic might have altered the kinds of questions you want to ask. For example, you might be wondering whether the pandemic will affect your birth choices. Can you opt for a home birth during a lockdown? The answer is yes. You might want to know what happens if you test positive for Covid-19 upon arrival at the labor and delivery unit. It will depend on your local hospital’s guidelines.
If you plan to have a doula or birth photographer with you at the birth, you will need to check with your healthcare provider whether it’s allowed while Covid-19 safety measures are in place. At the height of the pandemic, many doulas found they were unable to attend hospital births as disease control measures had been implemented, reducing numbers in the delivery room. You should find, however, this is no longer the case.
How to avoid Covid-19 while pregnant
If you’re currently pregnant and worried about catching Covid-19, you might be wondering what steps you can take to avoid it. As countries ease out of lockdowns and Covid measures end, you will have to implement your own measures to protect yourself. How much protection you have will depend on the precautions you choose to take in your daily life. Ideally, your partner and people you see regularly should take the same precautions to protect you and your baby.
The World Health Organisation recommends the following steps to reduce the likelihood of catching Covid-19:
Covid-19 is a relatively new infection, and our understanding of it is growing and developing along with the virus itself. For this reason, it’s essential to stay informed about new variants and new measures you can take to stay safe. Speaking to your midwife or healthcare provider is the best way to receive up-to-date advice about protecting your health.
You should follow local advice, so it’s important to stay updated with local recommendations. Sometimes, guidelines vary between different countries (and even towns) based on case numbers, so stay informed about the situation where you live.
At the height of the pandemic, social distancing was in place in many countries worldwide. The World Health Organisation recommends staying at least 1 meter away from others at all times. As countries ease their Covid restrictions, this might not be easy to achieve when you’re out and about; however, you can try to maintain distance between yourself and others as much as possible.
Covid-19 is airborne, so masks play an important role in preventing the spread. Many countries are ditching their mask mandates, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop wearing one. A properly fitted face mask can help to protect you and those around you from Covid-19. Cloth masks are not considered adequate against the Omicron variant, but a properly fitted disposable mask will increase protection.
Wash your hands
Although coronavirus disease is airborne, it is still vital to maintain good hand hygiene. The World Health Organisation recommends washing your hands or using an alcohol-based rub frequently when out and about.
Your vaccination status can affect whether or not you suffer severe illness with Covid-19. The World Health Organisation recommends vaccination to prevent the spread of Covid. The Covid-19 vaccination is recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Speak to your healthcare provider if you want to know more about vaccination during pregnancy.
Can I breastfeed my child with Covid?
If you have received a positive test and have been diagnosed with Covid, you might be wondering whether it’s safe to breastfeed your child. Yes, you absolutely can breastfeed your child. The World Health Organisation recommends that infected mothers begin or continue to breastfeed their babies.
If you are ill with Covid-19, you should take precautions around your baby. To reduce the risk of spreading Covid to your baby, you should:
- Wear a mask during breastfeeds
- Wash your hands before touching your baby.
You could also express milk and ask somebody else in your household to feed your baby with expressed breast milk.
For more information about breastfeeding during Covid, look at Breastfeeding With (Coronavirus) Covid-19 | Symptoms Risks and Effects.
Giving birth during Covid-19
Now that we are entering a new stage of the pandemic, your birth options should be much the same as they were before. During the pandemic, some women chose to give birth at home rather than in a hospital setting. The reasons for doing this included fear of catching Covid and the desire to have more than one birth partner.
You can choose where you give birth to your baby, even during a pandemic.
For more information on birth settings, look at Private Practice, Hospital Clinic, Birth Center Or Home? Choosing Where To Give Birth In The US.
If you’re in Australia, check out Birth Options In Australia: Public, Private, Birth Centre or Home?