Having a baby can be a scary and vulnerable time to start with, so when you add a global pandemic, uncertainty seems to be the only constant. Pregnant women might be at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant people according to the CDC, noting that there may be an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth, among pregnant people with the Coronavirus. Leaves you reassured right? While we don’t know much about how COVID-19 affects pregnant women and babies, I am finding comfort by relying on the advice and help of mothers that are going through pregnancies and deliveries during this global pandemic.
Navigating Pregnancy During COVID-19
Last month, the CDC released its first report about pregnant women affected with COVID-19. Even though the information is limited, we have gathered from reports that Hispanic and non Hispanic Black pregnant women appear to be disproportionately affected by the Coronavirus. Women of reproductive-age infected with COVID-19 experienced pregnancies associated with hospitalization and increased risk for intensive care unit admission as well as receipt of mechanical ventilation. However, the report did not find that pregnant women were necessarily associated with death.
More information continues to emerge regarding the virus making it so difficult for us to understand how it works. As I am experiencing my third pregnancy, I may know what to expect without the threat of a global pandemic, but I do feel a little uncertain. So I have turned to some friends and colleagues around the world that have given birth during this pandemic or are also pregnant.
My dear friend, Katie Bozzi, gave birth to her first baby in New York at the beginning of April when the number of positive cases was still climbing. In her ninth month of pregnancy, both she and her husband had tested positive for the virus, with no idea where they had contracted it. They both experienced very mild symptoms, but were scared nonetheless because of so many unknowns before New York had officially shut down.
Katie remembers, “The scariest part was not knowing if there would be any harm to the baby. But all studies at the time showed that most babies were being born without the virus and healthy.” Thankfully the day before she was scheduled to be induced, both she and her husband tested negative – after testing positive only a few days prior – and she ended up giving birth naturally that night. I always sustain that babies just know when it is their time to come to this world.
Initially, there was a mandate in the state that there was nobody allowed in the hospital, let alone in the delivery room. Fortunately, before she gave birth the mandate was removed, and her husband was allowed to stay for the birth and two hours after. A mother giving birth needs someone there to help her, especially mentally. Among all the mothers I have talked to about pregnancy amid a pandemic, they lament the notion of not having their partner or someone close being able to partake in what normally would be joyous moments that you would experience together.
As Katie looks back at the one thing she would change about the process was, “I wish that my husband was able to stay the night with me in the hospital. I didn’t feel that it was safe for a mother or baby to be alone that first night in the hospital especially during the pandemic when the hospital is less staffed. The mother needs help because she has just given birth and I think the hospital should allow a healthy partner to stay overnight.”
Courtney Pate, cousin to our News Editor Debra Brown, has not only experienced pregnancy three times already, but is also a doula. She cannot stress enough the importance of having the support a mother needs. Courtney struggled through an early doctor’s appointment when the doctor was having difficulty finding the baby’s heartbeat. She said, “she eventually found it, but not having my husband there for moral support would’ve been very hard for me if she hadn’t found it.” This may be her fourth baby, but one thing she would change is having him by her side for everything.
Another thing that I have learned from my friends and colleagues that have already given birth during the pandemic, is that the doctors and hospitals always are taking the right precautions to keep them safe.
Living in a major epicenter of the virus, the Lombardy region of Italy, certain precautions were made for the following months about how to proceed in the doctor/patient setting. Upon my first check-up for my pregnancy, I was told to wear a mask and gloves and nobody could attend the appointment with me. Trying to adapt to these new rules, I do feel safe in their precautions for prenatal visits.
Laetitia Loffredo, a close colleague of ours here in Milan, gave birth at the beginning of April and experienced feeling properly looked after and safe thanks to the care and guidance of her doctor and obstetrician during the frightening evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic. She recalls, “I always felt properly looked after, with everyone being extra cautious and very careful in respecting the new COVID rules.” Having to have an emergency C section because her son’s life was in serious danger, but she believes that delivering her baby at Mangiagalli in Milan was perfectly equipped for the situation and made her feel at ease. Laetitia says, “holding Carlo on my chest, after an emergency C section, was the greatest moment of my life.”
No matter where you find yourself during this global pandemic, pregnant mothers are facing more stress and anxiety due to little that is known about this virus and pregnant women. I have found strength in letting go of expectations – your birth plan may not go the way you want it to because there are circumstances bigger than you. Having faith in your doctors to do everything they can to keep you safe and the undaunting support of loved ones – even if it is only through a telephone screen – can give you some stability in a time where you feel like you have no control.
Image by Nadia Sarwar
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