As any mother will confirm, childbirth does not wait for any woman. Nor can pregnancy be interrupted until the end of a global pandemic. In contrast to the operations rescheduled on a less risky date, millions of expectant mothers are adding new, unexpected concerns to the significant concerns already out there.
Last month, pregnant women were told they were “at increased risk” for Covid-19 – and ordered to follow the “strict” social distance for 12 weeks. Since then, reports of the closure of obstetric centers, the fact that home deliveries are being ‘canceled’ and women who have to give birth without their partner have undoubtedly heightened anxiety.
Prime Minister’s fiancé, Carrie Symonds, is just one of the millions facing this dilemma: After six months pregnant, she is reportedly self-insulated miles away from Boris, who tested positive and is on Downing Street.
Unlike those who did surgery on a less risky date, millions of expectant mothers are adding new, unexpected concerns to the significant concerns that already exist
Experts have stated that there is little evidence that pregnant women are more likely to suffer from Covid-19 or that unborn children are at risk.
Still, understandably, concerns remain. And what will delivery look like in this time of Covid-19 chaos? Here we decode the official advice and a top midwife and midwife brings you the facts …
Passing it on to the baby is rare
A nightmare scenario would be if women could pass the virus on to their unborn child.
Since the virus is new, the evidence is limited – but it seems unlikely. A handful of neonatal cases have been identified by doctors in Wuhan, China.
A recent study published in Jama Pediatrics found that three out of 33 babies born to infected mothers tested positive for the virus.
Ignore viral messages online, such as lemon juice that protects you from Covid-19. It won’t … but wash your hands.
There is a small chance that the infection has occurred in the uterus, but it is more likely soon after. We also know that the virus cannot be passed through breast milk, and fortunately, most newborns who have become infected seem to be doing well.
The three babies in the study made a full recovery after about a week. Other reports show that infected babies often show no symptoms at all.
Even more reassuring are Chinese studies, in which six newborn babies born to mothers with coronavirus did not contract the virus, but tested positive for antibodies known to protect against it.
However, scientists warn that it is not known whether this gives children long-term immunity.
BEING PREGNANT MAY MAKE VIRUS WORSE
There is no evidence that pregnant women are at risk of contracting the coronavirus, but the government has identified them as “vulnerable.”
As a result, pregnant women are strongly advised to take a strict social distance and avoid all public areas, as well as time spent with everyone outdoors.
You must be particularly strict if you are in your third trimester (more than 28 weeks pregnant).
Prime Minister’s fiancé Carrie Symonds, pictured, is six months pregnant and reportedly self-insulated for miles from her partner, who tested positive and is on Downing Street
Precautions have been taken because viral infections due to changes in the immune system can more severely affect the health of pregnant women. “They tend to have a suppressed immune system, especially after the sixth month of pregnancy,” said Birte Harlev-Lam, an obstetrician and executive at the Royal College of Midwives.
You can still exercise daily, although pregnant women with underlying diseases, such as heart disease, should go a step further and “shield”. This means you don’t go out for 12 weeks and keep contact with the people you live with to a minimum – sleeping in separate beds, staying a minimum of 6 ft away and using different towels, dishes and cutlery.
“In this situation, it will be difficult to exercise, but it is vital that pregnant women continue to exercise to reduce the risk of blood clots,” said Clive Spence-Jones, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Whittington Hospital in London. “Try gentle movements such as online yoga tutorials or simple leg exercises while watching TV.”
SCANS PROGRESS BUT NOT WITH A PARTNER
Last week, the Royal College of Midwives revealed that the number of working maternity workers has halved since the outbreak. Despite this, vital scans are still going on. “Local health councils and trusts have their own method of dealing with the situation, but most 12- and 20-week scans are still ongoing,” says Harlev-Lam.
After 26 weeks, you can still go to the hospital or maternity center to have your bump measured. But check where to go – it could be in the hospital or a pop-up ward.
Weird Science: People emit light from their cells
All living things – including humans – emit small amounts of light as a by-product of chemical reactions in the cells.
In 2009, Japanese scientists first used ultra-sensitive cameras to capture the phenomenon – known as bioluminescence – in humans.
The detected light was 1000 times weaker than the naked eye could see. The researchers found that most of the light was produced in the afternoon and late at night.
Because the amount emitted by humans is so low, scientists don’t believe it serves a particular purpose. But creatures like fireflies, which produce stronger light, use it to attract partners.
In some areas, partners may be asked not to attend appointments, to adhere to social distance.
“But many midwives and departments use video calling apps so that the woman’s partner can still be part of the experience,” says Harlev-Lam.
All other routine tests and appointments are performed remotely, via video or phone calls.
This means that regular urine and blood pressure checks – looking for signs of potentially fatal preeclampsia – will not be completed.
So it is vital that women are vigilant about physical changes. Signs of preeclampsia (other than high blood pressure and protein in the urine) are headache, ankle swelling, and pain just below the ribs.
But what if you get Covid-19 symptoms? “Scans and appointments can be delayed until an isolation period of 14 days has passed and you are symptom-free,” says Spence-Jones.
“Call your maternity team and let them know as soon as you notice.”
If the symptoms occur around the time of your due date, you can still go to the hospital to have the baby, but you must use private transportation. You will be met at the entrance of the maternity ward and given a surgical face mask to wear before being transferred to an isolated room. You will then receive a coronavirus test.
Staff are armed and masked before birth, but your birth partner can stay if they are healthy.
You may give birth vaginally, but most likely you should not use a birth pool, because the virus can spread through body fluids. And you won’t be separated from your baby after birth unless they have to go to a neonatal ward. Breastfeeding is fine too, but take extra precautions like wearing a mask.
Be prepared for birth partners – including fathers – who are asked to leave shortly after birth, even if they have no symptoms.
FEWER CASES AND SUPPLIERS
If there is one certainty, it is that the delivery will not be as you expected. Reports that some mothers are forced to give birth alone have been troubling.
But most NHS Trusts will only ban a delivery partner from the hospital if they suddenly experience Covid-19 symptoms.
Only childbirth goes against the guidelines of NHS England, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Royal College of Midwives.
“It is generally accepted that women do better, feel less anxious and need less intervention if they have a reliable birth partner with them,” said Harlev-Lam. “This should continue even during the pandemic.”
Perhaps the biggest change is for those planning a home birth. A third of the NHS trusts have discontinued them – partly due to a lack of ambulances
But be prepared for birth partners – including fathers – who are asked to leave shortly after birth, even if they don’t have any symptoms.
Perhaps the biggest change is for those planning a home birth. A third of the NHS trusts have discontinued them – partly due to a lack of ambulances.
However, other trusts offer low-risk home births for women rather than those in a maternity ward.
And in some areas, there may not be enough staff for a nonessential cesarean delivery – so vaginal delivery may be the only option.