COVID-19 and Pregnancy Update
If you are currently pregnant, we understand that you are facing an unknown and ever changing situation which is undoubtedly causing you to feel even further anxiety on top of the usual pregnancy worries and concerns. At Muma Nurture we want to be able to support you through this difficult time.
We are keeping on top of the latest guidelines from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) as to how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect your care during pregnancy and birth. The situation has been changing rapidly and the NHS has been responding to these changes in order to maintain the same level of care for pregnant women and their babies despite the extra pressure being felt in hospitals.
Please initially refer to our blog 'Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Pregnancy' dated 1 April 2020 as much of the information will remain the same, we are just highlighting here the most recent changes.
The latest advice was updated by the RCOG on 9 April 2020, and it is important to note that there is still no evidence that pregnant women are any more likely than the general population to suffer severe symptoms if they contract coronavirus. Similarly there is no evidence that contracting coronavirus during pregnancy will increase the risk of miscarriage or lead to any developmental issues for your unborn baby. There is limited evidence that the infection could be transmitted to your baby during labour or soon after birth, but there is no evidence that newborn babies have become seriously unwell due to coronavirus infection.
However, the care and protocol being followed for pregnant women is changing rapidly in response to the situation, in order to keep you and your family, other families and hospital staff as safe and healthy as possible.
The main aim of these guidelines is to limit hospital visits for you, your partner and family. Hospitals are trying to improve their telephone and videoconferencing to offer as many antenatal appointments as possible from your home. However, there are a number of appointments that must be attended in person at set dates in your pregnancy in order to monitor you and your baby and reduce the likelihood of avoidable complications. For these appointments you must attend even if you are feeling anxious about the hospital setting; the risk of missing these appointments is greater than the risk of coronavirus.
Maternity units are doing everything they can to minimise the spread of coronavirus infection to healthy women and their babies, including restricting access to visitors, using appropriate protection equipment and infection control measures. It is very important not to be deterred from coming into hospital when you or your baby need.
Current advice is to contact your maternity unit a few days prior to your appointment to confirm attendance. There may be some changes due to staffing in your hospital. Women are being advised to attend appointments alone, including scans, which we understand could add a huge amount of anxiety to an already stressful event, but it is important that you observe these rules for the safety of everyone involved.
If you are experiencing difficulties in the early stages of your pregnancy, e.g. bleeding, pain, severe morning sickness or anything else that worries you, you should not go straight to the early pregnancy unit, there is currently a telephone triage assessment in place for assessing your needs before advising the best plan of action. Similarly with concerns later in your pregnancy, it is advised to phone ahead for advice and instruction before attending an emergency ward.
The issue that most pregnant women are anxious about is the labour. For many women knowing they have to attend hospital during this high risk time will make it very difficult to relax when thinking about and planning their labour. When you are planning for the arrival of your baby, its a natural instinct to want to avoid any risk of danger or illness, so walking into a hospital during time like this will likely be terrifying for some women.
You may be worrying that you or your partner may be showing symptoms at your time of labour and this could add another complication to your experience. Note that it will always be a priority to ensure that a birth partner can be with you during labour as this has been seen to increase the well-being of women and baby during childbirth. However, if your natural birth partner has been showing symptoms (including fever, acute persistent cough, hoarseness, nasal discharge/ congestion, shortness of breath, sore throat, wheezing or sneezing) in the last 7 days then they will not be permitted to attend and you must choose another symptom free birth partner. This is to ensure the safety of other patients and staff. Even if your partner is asymptomatic they may be asked to stay at your bedside and not walk around the ward or hospital.
For other women that have been planning a home birth, many hospitals have cancelled all homebirthing due to a shortage in midwives and lack of available ambulances. This will lead to people having to attend hospital during a time of increased risks when they had actively chosen not to give birth in a hospital in normal circumstances. For some women this may be due to trauma they have experienced through giving birth in hospital settings previously or other negative associations they may have with hospitals, which adds another dimension of anxiety to the situation.
Hospitals are also trying to reduce time spent in hospital by minimising non essential procedures. This means that some inductions are being delayed when the reason for induction is not strictly necessary. For women that have gone past their due date and are desperate to meet their baby and would normally be considered for an induction, this could be a very stressful and worrying time. If you are affected by this potential change then you should keep your antenatal team aware of any issues and concerns you have during this time.
AT ALL TIMES, it is essential that you follow government guidelines with regards to social distancing and if you or anyone in your home experiences symptoms and need to self isolate, make sure your antenatal team are made aware so that they can manage your care accordingly, for the safety of other families and staff. If you need to attend hospital during this time, either in an emergency or for your labour, ensure that you phone ahead so that procedures can be put in place for you arrival, and travel to hospital by private transport where at all possible. If you travel by ambulance you must make the team aware beforehand.
It is clear that life is not the same during this pandemic and your antenatal care and birth planning will undoubtedly feel somewhat different than they would have done, which must seem incredibly unfair for this important event in your life. The overall message is that you and your baby are still just as important to your healthcare team. It is still vital that you attend all essential appointments and if you have any concerns you must contact your antenatal team immediately (just ensure that your first contact is by phone and not attending a ward). The procedures will be slightly different but the care should remain the same. Everyone will be understanding of your fears, but please know that all of these changes you are experiencing to your appointments and labour are in order to keep you and your family as safe as possible.
On top of all this uncertainty, we are aware that people may have lost their support networks. You may have had antenatal classes cancelled or not be able to meet up with friends or family that you usually turn to. If you have a difficult relationship with your partner or they do not understand your fears, this could be an incredibly lonely time. Either you or your partner may have lost your income which would be an added worry. And for the most vulnerable, those suffering domestic abuse, mental health issues, severe poverty, homelessness, these people will need more support than ever.
You may be reluctant to mention difficulties to your maternity providers at the moment so as not to add to their workload, but pregnancy care is considered essential and for good reason. So please do not feel as though you cannot bring up any issues with them, no matter how big or small it may be. Whatever is going on in the world at the moment, your pregnancy and your baby are still the most important thing to you.
If you are worried about any of these issues, and feel as though you would benefit from further support, Muma Nurture are offering services online. Please contact us to find out how we can help. New clients are still being taken on using zoom, and for more information regarding this you can Whatsapp Muma Nurture on: 07460775495, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org