“I am 39 weeks pregnant with my second child and my mum is interstate. She was planning to come last week so that when I go into labour, she can care for my 4-year-old. Now that’s not happening I know that my husband will have to stay home with him, and I will probably labour alone. Apart from feeling sad my husband can’t be there to hold our new baby when she is born, I feel scared that something will happen to either me or her during the labour. And I am scared I won’t be able to do this without him- he is my main support.” Ally
With the current COVID-19 pandemic there have been enormous restrictions within the community and now in hospital settings too. While this is distressing for many reasons, it would be most upsetting for pregnant women who are due to give birth in the next few weeks/ months.
Pregnant women might find themselves alone during this perinatal period for a range of reasons; perhaps their usual support network are isolating because they are vulnerable in some way (i.e. grandparents), the hospital may have limits on how many people can attend/ visit or perhaps their usual support has become ill themselves.
So, where does that leave you if you are due to give birth soon?
Firstly, this situation probably leaves you feeling incredibly stressed and anxious. Stress and anxiety go hand in hand with labour whether it is your first baby or your fourth. Many mothers worry about pain, their safety and the safety of their baby under normal circumstances. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has added a layer of stress on top of those usual stressors. During this time, it is important to acknowledge that this is more stressful that usual and try to talk to someone about your worries.
Secondly, a huge part of what you are feeling is probably akin to grief. Pregnancy signals new beginnings and when you find out about your pregnancy you naturally imagine what the future will be like. What your new family will look like, what things you will do together and how the birth will go. Now that the world has changed you are likely to be grieving. You will be grieving how you thought your labour would go, how you expected to meet your newest family member and how you thought your partner would get to bond with them. You might also be grieving the fact that many family members might not get to see your new bub for many months. It is perfectly acceptable to feel this grief and feel sad for these missed opportunities. Do not deny yourself these important feelings. Sometimes it can help to write them down, create something or express them to a trusted support person.
And finally, you might be extra anxious about this situation as you have previous an experience of birth trauma previously, are susceptible to post-natal depression/anxiety or are a high-risk pregnancy due to other complications like gestational diabetes/ pre-eclampsia/late-age gestation etc. A complicated pregnancy or birth can be stressful on its own, but this is an added pressure that is difficult to ignore. Make sure you are getting the correct information and if you are finding COVID-19 reporting and social media too stressful you might need to take a break or limit how much you look at.
Here are some other small things that you can do to help manage this situation:
Find out the correct information (don’t rely on what you read on social media) call your hospital and find out what current measures are in place- ask to be kept updated if things change.
Try to complete antenatal classes even though many face-to-face sessions have been cancelled hospitals are now offering classes via video conference or online.
Work out what your options are in terms of getting to know a support person at the hospital (i.e. a midwife who can be there when you labour) or using technology during the delivery (Skype etc).
Control what you can- i.e. write down your preferences so you can refer to them during the process - it can be hard to think clearly when you’re tired, ensure you have your labour music or scents ready to go and write down key phone numbers that you can take into the labour ward with you for the staff to use if needed.
Seek out mindful birthing resources to help be present during the birth and manage your pain. Examples include: Calm Birth and https://www.mindfulbirthing.org/
Print out photos of your partner and any other children so that you can look at them when you are needing an extra boost during labour. This can also help with pain relief and producing all the feel-good hormones that assist with both labour progress and milk production.
Take special items in your bag like a blanket from great gran or special clothing gifted to you from loved ones. These can be tangible reminders that you have love and support from people around you and that although they can’t be with you, they are there in some way.
To help your baby to connect with your partner take something of theirs that is unwashed, and smells like them (nothing too dirty though!). In lieu of physical bonding this can be helpful.
We know that rest during the late stages of your pregnancy is very important for women and with this extra stress and anxiety this is likely to impacting your ability to rest. Before baby comes you might find that meditation is helpful (see Insight Timer for thousands of free meditations) or, start talking to a professional about your specific situation today. A perinatal psychologist can support you through the labour and early days of parenthood (Mum’s Matter Psychology offers Zoom video call and telephone sessions now- see here for the blog about telehealth).