We speak to Dr Stephanie Ooi about your concerns about pregnancy, labour and birth during the Pandemic
Many women will understandably be concerned about their pregnancy during the current Coronavirus crisis, so we spoke to Dr Stephanie Ooi (@the_gp_mum), who answers your common questions on being pregnant during COVID19
We are in the midst of an uncertain worrying time and it is very understandable to have lots of questions especially if you are pregnant. I can sympathise as I have recently given birth to my second daughter so have been through it!
Here, I have answered some of the questions I am being asked frequently by parents-to-be at the moment;
1. Do I need to be self-isolating if I am pregnant at the moment?
There isn’t an absolute need to self-isolate. Pregnant women fall into the vulnerable category in the UK. The current guidance is that pregnant women should be adhering to strict social distancing rules – so only leaving the house for certain essential trips and remaining two metres from others when out. In general it is about minimising the risk to yourself as much as possible but also balancing this with managing your mental and physical health. Being able to go out for a walk can be very helpful during pregnancy as well. Of course, if you choose to self-isolate then this is absolutely fine too. It’s a tricky situation so I urge you to do what makes you feel comfortable.
2. I am feeling quite anxious about labour. What can I do to help?
It is very normal and understandable to feel anxious about labour in general, let alone in the current situation. My advice would be to try and focus on the things within your control and empower yourself with knowledge. I would advise to read information from trusted official resources such as the Royal College of Obstetricians and NHS website. Both have excellent informative websites. Given the current climate, it’s also helpful to be aware of any changes made in the unit where you will be giving birth, so you know what to expect. For example – are birthing partners allowed and when can they be present? You can find this information out by having a chat with your midwife.
I would also recommend looking into hypnobirthing – a technique that can be used during labour but can be really helpful in the run up as you practice more and more. It consists of relaxation tools and positive affirmations which can be so helpful.
3. Is it advisable to wear gloves when you give birth in hospital?
It’s not essential, and with gloves there is actually an increased risk of cross contamination if you wear them the whole time. The best thing is to make sure you wash your hands frequently. In labour you may find it easier to use alcohol hand gel though – which must be at least 60% alcohol to be effective. I also have been quite hot during both labours so gloves may make things worse! You might consider wearing gloves for specific periods of time e.g. when going from the hospital entrance to the ward. You will have to open doors/press buttons BUT you must still be aware not to touch your face or phone and to remove them on arrival in labour ward and, still wash your hands!
4. I’m unsure how many days I should pack for and what I need in my hospital bag?
If you have a fairly smooth birth, you may be discharged a bit earlier. Hospitals will be looking to discharge people home given the current situation if everything is ok and mum and baby are happy. But pack for a few days. If you need more items then don’t worry, someone can drop them to the ward for you (but will not be able to come in) or if all else fails, the maternity ward will have most essentials!
Some of my hospital bag essentials are:
- Lip balm – my lips have been super dry each time because of the gas and air
- Portable speaker – I found making my own playlist so helpful both times in terms of helping me to feel more relaxed
- Headphones – to listen to hypnobirthing tracks
- Phone charger
- Multi-Mam breastfeeding compresses and Multi-Gyn maternity compresses – designed to provide soothing relief to any sore nipples if you plan to breastfeed and soothe perineal/vulval discomfort following a vaginal delivery.
- A few treats for afterwards like your favourite face cream – I found it so familiar and restorative!
- Clothing/bras that are easy to breastfeed in if you plan to
5. Is it ok to have my parents come visit when the baby is born if they have been in quarantine?
Unfortunately, under current restrictions, visitors aren’t allowed to come to your home. Even if they have been isolating, you will also have just returned from hospital so there is a potential risk there too. It is a very difficult time and I completely empathise. All I want is for my family to come over and hold the little one, but sadly it will have to wait. At the moment, you could consider a socially distanced walk with one relative but physical contact would not be allowed.
Obviously there may be some mitigating circumstances where someone coming to the house is necessary, but this would be my general advice.
6. With not many baby clinics should we be weighing our own newborns and how?
Visits from health visitors and midwives once you are back home will vary across the country. Some will be conducting home visits but calling the day before to screen for any symptoms and they will most likely arrive in protective gear too (apron, mask, gloves). Some may offer appointments either by phone or using video conference calls. My personal opinion is that I think we need to be cautious about buying scales for the home and weighing our babies, as sometimes it can cause more unnecessary anxiety. If you are concerned about your newborn’s weight, contact your health visitor who can invite you into a clinic.
7. What can we expect with the postnatal checks during this time?
It is important to remember there are 2 checks at 6-8 weeks – one for you and one for baby. I would check with your GP surgery and see what they are doing at this time. For baby, some surgeries are combining the 8-week vaccinations with a check up. It is important not to forget about your own physical and mental health too. As new parents, we can find that the focus is on the baby but if there is any aspect of your recovery or wellbeing that you are concerned about, please seek advice from your GP or health visitor.
I hope this has all been helpful information for you. Wishing you the best of luck with everything and please stay safe.