In the U.S. vaccinations are rolling out, states are “opening” as restrictions are easing with falling infection rates, and it finally seems like we are seeing the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.
Still, we are not out of the woods yet. It was reported this week that the U.S. may not reach herd immunity – ever. Variants are circulating and contributing to surges in cases across the country, and terrifying spikes in infections and deaths in other parts of the world. It seems more and more likely that COVID-19 is here to stay. For the foreseeable future our world may look like one where there are COVID-19 outbreaks in different parts of the country throughout the year. These outbreaks could cause local lockdowns and other disruptions in our daily lives. Because of this “new normal,” we at PALS wanted to remind our courageous mamas about what they can continue to do to keep safe and healthy.
At the outset, we must remember that while we’ve been living with COVID-19 only for over a year, we do know some significant facts about its impact on pregnancy. More data surfaces as the virus is continually studied. Recent research shows that pregnant women are at greater risk for severe illness (requiring hospitalizations and/or ICU stays) or death from COVID-19 infections than previously thought; and there are studies showing increased rates of miscarriage and stillbirth as a result of infection.
Here are our quick reminders:
1. Don’t let the fear of contracting COVID-19 prevent you from seeking prenatal care.
While it’s true that a pregnant woman is at greater risk of becoming more severely ill if they contract COVID-19, you shouldn’t forgo medical care just because you might contract the virus. For the most part, OB appointments are essential care. Most institutions are prioritizing them so that even if other appointments are restricted or changed to telemedicine visits, these ones are not. I spoke with Dr. Sharp, from the Hope After Loss clinic here in Madison, Wisconsin, about this very thing. Her words are worth repeating:
“Don’t be afraid of going into the medical system if you need something. If you are feeling like your baby’s movements are off, having a hesitancy to call or to get checked because of a concern for COVID, I would say that health care institutions and hospitals are making every effort they can to minimize risks of infection there. I wouldn’t want the fear of contracting COVID to ever be a barrier for somebody going in and getting the care that they need, or getting the check in they need, or going to their antenatal testing appointments.”
Most institutions are starting to ease restrictions on support persons coming along to appointments. In the event that your medical clinic still has them, there are ways to include your partner or support person. If you are faced with heading to an appointment alone, please talk to your provider about what you can do to include your support person. You may be able to FaceTime during the appointment or have your partner participate by phone. If those options aren’t available or possible, you can try recording the appointment on your phone so that you can refer back to it if necessary.
2. Pregnant women should be isolating as much as they can during this time.
The best thing you can do for you and your growing bundle is to protect yourself as much as possible. Wear a mask. Socially distance. Limit social exposures. Let someone else do the grocery shopping if possible. The more you can cocoon or isolate yourself, the better.
3. Consider getting vaccinated.
As mentioned above, we know pregnant women are at greater risk for severe illness, hospitalizations, and death if infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Stillbirth and miscarriage are potential adverse outcomes from infection. The Centers for Disease Control recommend pregnant women get the vaccine and has said that there is growing evidence that the vaccine is safe for pregnant women. Further studies indicate that vaccinated expectant mothers pass antibodies onto their babies.
Now that the vaccine is available, it’s important for expecting moms to discuss the option with their providers to make an informed decision that feels right for them and their babies.
4. Find a therapist to cope with the extra anxiety.
Pregnancy after loss is hard. Living through a pandemic is hard. Doing both at the same time is harder. A survey revealed the pregnant women reported higher levels of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress.
If you don’t already have one, you may want to consider seeing a therapist to help you get through this time. They can provide coping mechanisms that will work for you and your family.
5. Remember you are not alone.
Even though we’re telling you to self-isolate to protect yourself as much as possible, you are not alone. There are many other courageous mamas like you going through a pregnancy after loss at this exact time. Feel free to join our online support groups. Find local mamas who can do a Zoom chat with you. Reach out to your regular line of support in all the ways we have to now that the pandemic is upon us. Just because we’re experiencing a once-in-a-century pandemic, it doesn’t mean we can’t be there for each other. We’re here for you at PALS. Let us help.
Please note that the information in this article is not a substitute for medical advice from your own obstetrician or midwife. Your care provider is most familiar with your personal situation, your region’s response to COVID-19, and is best equipped to answer your specific questions and address your concerns. These questions and answers are intended for informational purposes only. Please do not use this article as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
- Pregnancy After Loss and the COVID-19 Vaccine
- Pregnancy After Loss and COVID-19: March 2021 Research Update
- Even if we think we are ready, is now the right time? Deciding whether to choose pregnancy after loss during a pandemic
- Pregnancies can’t be rescheduled: Support your pregnant friends through the pandemic
- Why Evaluating Risk is Different for Loss Parents