EXPECTING a baby is a wonderful and worrying time for all parents-to-be – and I’m one of them. But add in a Covid pandemic and it can feel overwhelming.
At the start of the first lockdown almost a year ago, experts predicted a baby boom would follow months later.
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It’s true that in the past the UK has seen births increase after previous tragic events such as World War Two, the tsunami in Indonesia and Princess Diana’s death in 1997.
But while it seems tragedy does make us seek comfort in one another, accountancy firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers has predicted we will actually see fewer babies born this year than in any other since records began.
Job insecurity, financial hardship, the inability to travel abroad for IVF and some IVF services being cancelled here in the UK have all been cited as reasons.
But, for mums-to-be like me, NHS maternity services are open for business and will stay open. Anecdotally, maternity units across the UK have seen a slight dip in 12-week scan bookings.
But if you’re pregnant at any time, not just in a pandemic, it is vital that you attend all antenatal appointments. It could be dangerous not to.
In some areas, midwife booking appointments are happening over the phone, rather than in person. And new NHS guidance, published in December, now states that pregnant women should be allowed one other person with them for all hospital appointments and during birth.
Units are asking mums to be on time, but not too early for their appointments, to limit any potential Covid risks. But rest assured, hospitals are some of the safest places to be at the moment, with every safety and PPE precautions being taken.
Thankfully, research has shown that should the worst happen and a pregnant mum or newborn baby get Covid-19, unless they have underlying conditions, mums are not any more susceptible to complications than the rest of the general population. And the risk of newborn babies developing severe Covid-19 infection is extremely rare.
Benefits and risks
I’ve spoken to midwives who’ve had mums with Covid delivering on their wards and both mum and baby have been fine.
Pregnant women are not routinely offered vaccination at the moment and there are two main reasons for this.
Firstly, they have not been prioritised because research shows that if pregnant women catch Covid they aren’t more likely to suffer severe disease (which is different to flu) or die.
Secondly, pregnant women weren’t part of the trial groups, so as yet there is a lack of safety data.
However, if you are deemed clinically extremely vulnerable then you should discuss your individual risk – and the benefits of vaccination – with your doctor. This is because underlying conditions may put you at very high risk of experiencing serious complications of Covid-19.
If you are a frontline health or social care worker and you’re pregnant, it’s also worth discussing the option of vaccination. This is because the risk of exposure to Covid-19 may be even higher.
The key message is that the benefits and risks of Covid-19 vaccination in pregnancy should be discussed on an individual basis.
While it’s a worrying time to be pregnant, I have also found there are upsides.
Given we can’t all socialise as normal, I have found being pregnant in a pandemic has reduced the FOMO I think I would have otherwise got.
No one else is out having fun or staying out late so it’s fine to get home after work and get straight into my PJs.
By the time my baby arrives in June, I’m hoping the UK will look slightly more like we all remember it, and baby groups will have opened up again.
The millions of women who have had a baby in the last 12 months have done so in some of the most adverse conditions we’ve known in a generation. The midwives, obstetricians and healthcare assistants who have helped deliver babies in such trying times are all heroes.
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