Pregnancy and birth in a pandemic: my experience
Updated: Feb 22, 2021
I have a really vivid memory of sitting in my parked car outside my son’s pre-school late one afternoon last March listening to the radio as one of the very first press conferences played live from No.10.
My eyes pricked with tears as the severity of the situation hit me – we were in a global pandemic and I had just found out I was pregnant.
As Chris Whitty’s serious tones warned that pregnant women fell into the vulnerable group, a million worries swirled through my mind – Would I get it? What would happen to the baby if I did? How would I cope?
I just kept thinking that this was the absolute worst timing. It was like a huge dark rain cloud had moved in over the top of my happy fuzzy early pregnancy haze and parked itself firmly there for the foreseeable.
I seriously cannot believe as I sit here writing this that it’s nearly a whole year later and I have my beautiful baby boy here safe and well. Looking back I am truly relieved to have got through it unscathed and raise a huge glass of wine to everyone who helped me get through it!
What should have been an exciting and ideally stress-free time was now to be an anxious nine months. Looking back, I can say that being pregnant in a pandemic certainly wasn’t without its challenges.
Superficially, things like the discomfort of having to constantly wear a facemask at work when I was already out of breath and just generally feeling unsafe and vulnerable wherever I was around people.
More directly, it’s everything from being alone at scan appointments to worrying that your birth partner might have to wait outside in the car park for some of your labour – the implications of the pandemic on women’s experience of pregnancy and birth have in parts felt totally inhumane.
I lost count of the nights I would lie there in bed awake and uncomfortable worrying about the future – the birth and beyond – our new little baby who had no idea of the crazy world outside.
I also remember there were times when I felt so angry about the situation. Times when I would breathlessly walk to a scan appointment during lockdown, around the edge of the park where I would see people unashamedly sunbathing together without any regard for the rules – the rules that meant I had to attend my scans alone and anxious.
I just kept thinking ‘thank god this is my second baby and I kind of know what I’m doing and what to expect’. My heart goes out to anyone going through their first pregnancy right now.
I’m so glad that groups like the amazing Pregnant then Screwed with campaigns like #butnotmaternity have gained some traction and have made improvements for women with some trusts now allowing partners into scans. Sadly this was too late for my husband and I. He never got to hear that little heartbeat at the first scan or be there to hold my hand at the anomaly check-up. It’s all too easy to forget that it’s their baby too.
I was lucky enough to have a really lovely and very knowledgeable midwife who was so reassuring throughout my pregnancy. We also joined an antenatal refresher group with The Baby Journey which was amazing and has given us a whole new group of lovely baby friends who are an incredible source of support and friendship now.
Despite being at the beginning of the second wave of the pandemic and going into labour two days before the second national lockdown, my experience of giving birth I have to say was overall a very positive one.
Luckily we were able to go straight into a delivery suite on our arrival at Gloucester Royal and stay there the whole time – I was so proud to be 5cm dilated on arrival… if you know, you know!
Apart from a cheeky mid-labour Covid-swab and of course my husband having to wear a facemask throughout, it was on the whole a very similar experience to my first labour. The midwives were all really lovely and did everything they could to make us feel comfortable and normal.
I would say though that it being our second baby, we were much more aware of what was to come and what we wanted in terms of birth experience and therefore much more confident about verbalising that.
Also, I do have close friends who had to be induced and be on their own for long periods. This was so hard to hear about and I can’t imagine having to be without your birthing partner at such a vulnerable and anxious time.
For any first-time mums out there, I would advise being confident in knowing what you would ideally like your experience to be but to try not to worry about the impact of Covid on the birth. Chances are that it will be minimal and midwives will be there to support you at every stage. Everyone will be focussed on making you as comfortable as possible and the safe arrival of your little one.
I would really recommend an antenatal baby group like The Baby Journey. The friends I’ve made through this have been a lifeline especially as we now can’t attend baby groups in person. Even just silly WhatsApp messages moaning about lack of sleep and boredom can reassure you that you’re not in this alone!
I am just so very grateful for my little Oliver - our little silver lining to the terrible year that was 2020.
For us, for now, it’s all about hunkering down in our enforced baby bubble – no friends or relatives allowed!