Just when we’d thought (hoped) that the world had turned a corner with COVID-19, January 2022 is feeling a lot like the beginning of this pandemic 2020. We’ve seen variants surge and ravage communities and hospitals. The latest variant, Omicron, spreads fast and easily even amongst the vaccinated.
We’ve been living with COVID-19 for two years now, and we know some significant facts about its impact on pregnancy. As we get further into the pandemic, more and more studies about the virus and its impact are released. From the beginning, doctors have cautioned that pregnant people are at greater risk for severe illness (requiring hospitalizations and/or ICU stays) or death from COVID-19 infections and research confirms that. Data also has shown increased rates of miscarriage and stillbirth as a result of infection, and adverse outcomes are particularly acute amongst the unvaccinated. Experts say that the omicron variant doesn’t change these previous studies.
As we navigate another surge in cases, we at PALS wanted to remind you of what you can do to keep you and your baby safe during this time.
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 a year ago Dr. Sharp, from the Hope After Loss clinic here in Madison, Wisconsin, about this very thing. Her words are worth repeating especially now:
“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.”
Many institutions are reinstating restrictions on support persons coming along to appointments. In the event that your medical clinic is in that camp, 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 high-quality mask (N95s or KN95s are better than cloth). 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. Studies are showing that stillbirth and miscarriage are adverse outcomes from infection. The Centers for Disease Control recommend pregnant women get the vaccine and there is growing evidence that the vaccine is safe for pregnant women. Further studies indicate that vaccinated expectant mothers pass antibodies onto their babies.
It’s important for expecting parents to discuss getting vaccinated with their providers to make an informed decision that feels right for them and their babies.
If you’re already vaccinated, consider getting a booster.
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 that 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 parents like you going through a pregnancy after loss at this exact time. Feel free to join our online support groups. Find local parents who can do a Zoom chat with you. Reach out to your regular line of support in all the ways we have as the pandemic continues. 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.
- Parenting and Pregnancy After Loss in a Pandemic: If You Are Tired, You Aren’t Alone
- Pregnancy After Loss and the COVID-19 Vaccine
- You Expected Pregnancy After Loss To Be Hard, But You Didn’t Expect This
- Even if we think we are ready, is now the right time? Deciding whether to choose pregnancy after loss during a pandemic
- Before and After: A Letter to Loss Parents During the Pandemic