For many of us, what we're currently experiencing with the Coronovirus pandemic is strange, stressful and emotionally draining, but there are plenty of great resources out there to help us through this time.
If you're a pregnant parent-to-be, this situation can be even more overwhelming. Quarantine measures, constant news bulletins on death tolls and test rates, and information overload on social media can make all of this extremely hard to take in. Just know that, even though it might feel like it while you can't leave your house, you are definitely not alone in this.
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That’s why this article contains some helpful Coronavirus tips from a healthcare expert. If you’re a pregnant parent-to-be, then read on to find out more.
Follow official guidelines to keep yourself and your baby safe
If you’re pregnant in this pandemic, one of the first things you can do to look after yourself and your baby is to follow official guidelines.
This means reducing social contact and taking certain measures to socially distance from other people to stop the spread of the virus.
In particular, vulnerable groups have been advised to follow these measures. This includes pregnant women, for the safety of themselves and their babies.
If you are pregnant, following the below advice (and ensuring that your partner or any other members of your household do the same) can help you to stay safe:
- Regular and thorough hand-washing: use hot water and soap for at least 20 seconds. If you’ve left the house, do this immediately on your return.
- Stay at home as much as possible. We’ve all been advised to only go outside for a few essential reasons (necessary shopping, exercise, medical or health reasons, or work — but only if you cannot work from home).
- Avoid non-essential use of public transport such as buses where possible.
- Work from home if you can: if you are currently working away from home and you are in or approaching your third trimester, you should speak to your employer about your options moving forward.
- Stay at least two metres (six feet) away from other people at all times if you have to go out for any reason.
- If you need medication or medical advice, use phone or online services to contact your GP.
- Avoid any gatherings in public spaces or those with friends and family.
- Use tissues when you cough or sneeze, bin the tissue straight away and then wash your hands (the same goes for anyone in your house).
By following these measures, you can really reduce your risk of catching the virus and keep yourself and your baby as safe as possible.
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Try not to worry too much
Although it can feel incredibly worrying to be pregnant during a pandemic, try to take time out and focus your mind on other things.
We understand that this is easier said than done, but here are some facts to help you feel more comfortable and reassured:
- There is currently no evidence to suggest that pregnancy increases a woman’s risk of contracting COVID-19 or developing more serious or dangerous symptoms.
- The majority of pregnant women who do catch the virus will experience mild to moderate flu-like symptoms — similar to other healthy adults in the same age range.
- There is no evidence to suggest that coronavirus will affect the pregnancy in any way, including miscarriage.
- There is no evidence at the moment to suggest that the mother contracting coronavirus will cause harm to the unborn baby or increase the risk of health problems or birth defects.
Although it may feel scary to be pregnant at this time — particularly when coronavirus is so infectious — everything we know about coronavirus indicates that it is not dangerous to pregnant women in the same way as the Zika virus was. Take all the advised precautions to try to reduce worries.
For more information on COVID-19 and pregnancy, you can visit this helpful page from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
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Look after your wellbeing too
As well as following official guidelines to look after your physical health, it’s important to focus on your mental health and wellbeing too.
Looking after your wellbeing during this difficult time will help you to feel more in control, more confident about the situation, and help you manage anxiety. Luckily, there are a few simple positive steps you can take for your mental health.
Try to exercise regularly. The benefits are enormous — exercise boosts serotonin and endorphins (your happy hormones) and lowers cortisol levels (the stress hormone in your body), which helps you feel more balanced and boosts your mood. Obviously, it’s harder to exercise now that gyms and swimming pools are closed, but there are still exercises you can do at home, such as online yoga or pilates classes.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day too, and eat a balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables; it helps to think that you’re feeding your baby lots of healthy nutrients as well as yourself (though it’s absolutely fine to give into those pregnancy cravings every now and then).
Understanding anxiety more can help too; recognising your personal symptoms, any triggers, and any unhealthy coping mechanisms you use (such as eating badly, smoking or drinking) are all important steps towards positive change.
This will help you to start practising positive coping skills and self-soothing habits, such as mindfulness. Don’t worry, this doesn't mean sitting on the floor meditating for hours; this could just be listening to some soothing music, drinking a calming cup of herbal tea, or reading a book in the garden.
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Speak to your midwife
Feeling nervous during pregnancy is very common, even in normal circumstances. And at a time like this, it isn’t surprising that many expecting mothers will be feeling anxious about their pregnancy.
If you’re experiencing anxiety or panic attacks, talking to your GP or midwife about how you’re feeling can help. They will be able to provide you with some support and advice about how to proceed, and help you to access treatment if you need it.
Speaking to your midwife or your maternity team will also help you to prepare for any changes that might happen with any antenatal appointments you have, or even your birthing plan.
In maternity wards all across the UK, healthcare staff are doing everything they can to keep pregnant women, new mums and babies (and the healthcare workers themselves) as safe and supported as possible. This means that even though maternity units will try to facilitate women’s childbirth choices, there may be some changes that need to be made to make sure that everyone is safe.
For example, you will be able to have a birth partner present to support you during labour and birth. However, if your chosen birth partner has coronavirus symptoms, they won’t be able to come with you for the birth, and you will have to pick an alternative partner. Restrictions may also be placed on visitors to wards or appointments.
If you’re worried or unsure about what any of this means for you, then speak to your maternity team — they will be able to advise you further.
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What to do if you think you might have Coronavirus
If you are pregnant and you notice what you think might be coronavirus symptoms (such as a fever, persistent dry cough, or shortness of breath) then you should take the following steps:
- Stay at home self-isolating for seven days (do not leave your home for any reason)
- Get plenty of sleep and rest
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
- Take paracetamol to lower your temperature
- Don’t go to a GP surgery, hospital or pharmacy
- Don’t go out to buy food or other necessities — get someone else to drop them off at your home or order online if possible
- Let your maternity unit know that you have coronavirus symptoms — they will be able to advise you regarding upcoming appointments
- Make sure that anyone you live also self-isolates for 14 days from the day your symptoms started
If your condition doesn’t appear to improve after these seven days, or your symptoms get worse or unmanageable, then you should use the online 111 coronavirus service or call 111.
Being pregnant in a global pandemic can be scary. However, there are plenty of things you can do to protect your baby and look after your mental and physical wellbeing. Follow the expert advice above and speak to your midwife or doctor if you are worried or unsure about anything.
About the author: Andy Boysan (BPharm) is the co-founder and superintendent pharmacist of The Independent Pharmacy, one of the UK’s leading independent online pharmacies. For more healthcare and treatment advice, visit their website.