Everything you need to know about giving birth during the coronavirus pandemic
4 years ago
What do you need to know if you are pregnant and about to give birth during the coronavirus pandemic?
For pregnant women who are due in the coming months, it’s an anxious time. Coronavirus has thrown some birth plans up in the air, new safety measures mean less face-to-face routine appointments, there’s increased strain on maternal health units, and introducing a newborn to family outside the household simply isn’t possible right now.
Liverpool Women’s Hospital is running as normal and you can get all of the latest advice from their website here.
The Royal College of Obstetricans and Gynecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) have been continually updating guidelines on how Covid-19 is understood to affect pregnancy – and while there’s still no evidence to suggest pregnant women are more likely to contract the virus than other healthy adults, or more likely to become seriously unwell, they have been classed as ‘vulnerable’.
So, as the situation evolves, and due dates approach, hundreds of thousands of mums-to-be are understandably feeling confused and scared about bringing their child into the world during the pandemic.
We asked Obstetrician Dr Will Dooley, co-founder of Happy Parents, Happy Baby, and expert speaker at The Baby Show, who are holding a series of Instagram live Q&As on pregnancy and parenting issues, to answer the most common questions pregnant women have right now.
Why has pregnancy been put into the at-risk group, when it wasn’t at the beginning?
“The decision to put pregnant women into the at-risk group was taken as a precaution. It is known that some viral infections are worse in pregnant women. There’s currently no evidence that this is the case for Covid-19, but as the evidence is still quite limited, it was decided that it would be better to be cautious. As yet, there is no evidence that pregnant women who get coronavirus are more at risk of serious complications than any other healthy individuals.”
Can my partner come still come to my scans?
“This will depend on your hospital’s policy. It’s a good idea to call ahead and check, because some hospitals now have restrictions on partners attending routine antenatal appointments and scans. If your hospital cannot accommodate your partner, think of ways that they can still be involved, such as via a video call, if your hospital is happy to allow this.”
Am I more at risk after 28 weeks?
“It has long been known, that whilst pregnant women are not necessarily more susceptible to viral illness, changes in their immune system in pregnancy can be associated with more severe symptoms. This is particularly true towards the end of pregnancy, hence the recommendations for increased measures after 28 weeks. The absolute risks are, however, small.”
The RCOG advises being ‘particularly attentive to social distancing and minimising any contact with others’ in the third trimester.
Can I still have a birthing partner?
“There are so many benefits of having a trusted birth partner with you, and this has been recognised in the latest guidance by The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Royal College of Midwives to NHS trusts.
“They’ve advised hospitals to continue to allow partners to be present during the labour and birth, and that in times of heightened anxiety, this is more important than ever. However, if a birth partner has suspected or confirmed coronavirus, you will be asked to bring a different birth partner, in order to safeguard your own health and that of the team looking after you.”
If we have other children, who am I supposed to leave them with so I don’t have to give birth alone?
“There is currently no formal guidance on this, but a cautious approach would be recommended. For example, try not to leave your child with anyone in a vulnerable group. Although children do develop Covid-19, very few children will develop a severe infection. But they can still pass this virus onto others, who may be at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell.”
If I wanted a home birth, can I still have one?
“You should check with your team what the situation is in your local area. Many midwife-led birth units and home-birth teams rely on ambulance services to provide transfers to hospital, in the case of an emergency during the labour or birth. Services will also need to ensure there are enough midwives and other staff to keep you safe.
“If these conditions can’t be met, it may be possible that your trust may not be able to offer these services. If you have suspected or confirmed Covid-19, you will be advised to give birth at an obstetric unit, rather than have a home birth, so you and your baby can be monitored more closely.”
If I wanted to give birth in a birthing centre, will that still be possible?
“Standalone birthing centres, which are separate from the hospital, also rely on ambulance services for rapid transfer to hospital, and the right number of staff to keep you safe. As long as these conditions are met, births in standalone centres should still be possible [providing you don’t have suspected Covid-19].”
Is there any point in writing a birth plan? Will I still get choices?
“Absolutely. The current guideline is that birth plans should still be followed as closely as possible. However, at Happy Parents, Happy Baby, we always advise writing a series of birth preferences rather than a rigid birth plan. This involves thinking of different scenarios that could arise and planning how you can make your birth as positive as possible, in any situation that may arise.
“For example, if you were advised to give birth on the obstetric-led unit rather than the birth centre, how could you still make your birth environment as calm as possible? If your birth partner was unwell, who else could be a trusted partner? If you would like help writing birth preferences, we have a template with lots of ideas that you can download for free. Remember to share it with the team looking after you, and always remain a part of the decision-making process.”
Can a newborn get coronavirus?
“A small number of babies have tested positive for Covid-19 shortly after birth. There is a chance that this infection could have occurred in the womb (vertical transmission), but it is not certain if transmission was before or shortly after birth.
“If you have confirmed or suspected Covid-19, doctors who specialise in newborn care will examine your baby and advise whether they need testing, or if they need any extra monitoring. It’s important to emphasise [at the time of writing] that in all reported cases of newborn babies developing coronavirus very soon after birth, the baby was well.”
After the birth, will we need to self-isolate at home?
“If you develop symptoms of suggested or confirmed Covid-19, you will be advised to self-isolate at home. Otherwise the general government rules for social distancing will apply.”
Can my new baby meet anyone from outside of my household?
“The government is currently advising against having friends and family to your house and is advising against social mixing in the community. This means friends and family will need to wait to meet your baby. We appreciate how disappointing this must be and until the restrictions are lifted, we hope you can ‘pull up the drawbridge’ and make the most of the baby bubble with those in your home.”
Tune into the @thebabyshow Instagram for live Q&As on April 8 for weaning, April 15 for hypnobirthing, and April 22 for pregnancy and postnatal fitness, all at 7:30pm.