COVID-19 pregnancy is no fun. I know this because I was also pregnant for part of the pandemic!
I gave birth to my second baby during the summer of 2020, which meant that my ENTIRE third trimester and birth was subject to new restrictions re: pregnancy and COVID-19.
I hear from a lot of you guys on Instagram and in replies to the free weekly pregnancy series that you could use more support and tips to cope with pregnancy during this strange time.
Sure, there’s lots of (ever changing) information out there about risk factors related to pregnancy and COVID-19, but I want to do something a little different.
Here you’ll find my top tips and advice for your COVID-19 pregnancy during this time. You know like…
- How to make the most of your prenatal care when it’s mostly virtual?
- Things you can do to monitor your own pregnancy health at home
- What to do when you have to go to pregnancy scans alone?
- How to prepare for a positive birth in the time of corona?
- And ways to find postpartum support when you’re trying to maintain social distance/isolation
So, if you’re also in the boat of #pregnantinapandemic, read on!
- Prenatal care during COVID-19
- Self-monitoring your pregnancy between telehealth appointments
- Handling solo pregnancy scans due to COVID-19 restrictions
- Preparing for birth in a pandemic
- Setting up and finding postpartum support during the pandemic
- Recognize that a COVID-19 pregnancy is not what you expected
Prenatal care during COVID-19
Prenatal care is an important aspect of all pregnancies. Research shows that maintaining the recommended prenatal care schedules put out by ACOG and the American Pregnancy Association is connected to better outcomes for mama and baby.
Therefore, maintaining a recommended prenatal care schedule during COVID is important, too! It should be the same in terms of frequency; however, your prenatal care is probably going to look a little different.
Most practices have shifted a large portion of prenatal visits to a telehealth format – especially if your pregnancy is considered low risk.
This means you are still regularly checking in with your OB or midwife, but the visits are done via video conference online. You’ll still go into the office for certain appointments, but there will be a large shift to virtual appointments.
Here are some tips for virtual prenatal care
- Ask your provider for a full prenatal schedule to give you an idea of when you WILL go into the office and for what reason
- Learn about policies that are in place for in-person appointments, scans, blood work, etc. so that you can prepare before you arrive
- Ask what procedures are in place to reduce the risk of virus spread within your practice
- Prepare for your virtual appointment with LOTS of questions. Sometimes it can feel difficult to connect with your provider when it’s a virtual visit. It can also feel brief and rushed. To combat this, come prepared with some talking points (I recommend this to mamas for all prenatal appointments, but it feels especially important when it’s telehealth)
- Find out when you should ALWAYS call your provider during pregnancy, but also, realize that they expect to get a lot more calls during this time. Because you’re not being seen in office as frequently, it’s expected that you’ll call with more questions
- If you ever REALLY want or feel you need to be seen in person, speak up and push to make it happen. Many practices can accommodate exceptions for in-person appointments
- Get educated about pregnancy red flags so that you can spot them and bring up risks with your provider
Self-monitoring your pregnancy between telehealth appointments
Pregnancy during the pandemic means that you will probably be taking a bigger role in your own prenatal care. Which is actually kind of awesome.
A strong understanding of your own prenatal health is wonderful and can lead to a great sense of confidence when it comes to self-advocacy during pregnancy.
This is one aspect of prenatal care and pregnancy that I hope continues even AFTER COVID. I want my mamas to feel like a crucial member of their own care team – and this can help with that so much!
All of this is to say, make sure you are diligently doing any at-home monitoring that your provider recommends. It may be even more important during these times.
This might involve:
- Using a provided blood pressure cuff – this is so important for spotting signs of prenatal hypertension or pre-eclampsia
- Tracking your weight gain with weekly weigh ins
- Daily kick counting once you are past 28 weeks
- Using a home fetal doppler (but I recommend this with a big warning that these CAN cause more anxiety than good because using one when you’re untrained can cause undue stress)
Handling solo pregnancy scans due to COVID-19 restrictions
One aspect of prenatal care that will feel REALLY different during COVID-19 are your ultrasounds. Ultrasounds are often looked at as a HUGE pregnancy milestone. It’s an exciting moment when you get to actually SEE your growing baby.
They’re also super important because your provider is checking on baby’s development and growth. The reality is that some ultrasounds can shed light on serious complications or issues with development.
During regular times, I always recommend that mamas bring a support person with them to their ultrasounds. Getting heavy news solo can be a lot to handle.
Naturally, this might not be possible during these times. Most practices require you to attend ultrasounds solo. Luckily, there are still some things you can do to make it better:
- Try to FaceTime/Zoom in your partner or other support person if possible: You can do this with your phone, but most practices will be totally fine with you setting up a laptop/tablet at a spot in the room that makes it really easy for your partner to see and be there for the whole event.
- Ask for permission to record the appointment: This way you and your partner can re-watch it together to share the joy AND re-listen to important information that may lead to follow up questions
- Schedule virtual follow-up visits to the anatomy scan at a time when your partner can be a part of the conversation: I always think more ears and more questions, especially if something more serious came up, is a good idea
- Wait to find out the gender until later that day: So even if you’re not planning to be team green, have the ultrasound technician write the gender down and put it into an envelope. This way you and your partner can find out later in the day when you are together since your partner can’t be at the appointment in person
Preparing for birth in a pandemic
In some ways, preparing for birth during a pandemic isn’t going to be all that different than during regular times! The most important ways to prepare are through education and questions, physical health, and having the right essentials on hand for the aftermath.
While the preparations are essentially the same, it’s how you go about them that will be a bit different. Here are some specifics of how that might look NOW during the pandemic…
1. Take a virtual hospital tour
I can’t recommend this enough! Don’t skip the hospital tour because you can’t physically go to the building for a tour. Most facilities have recorded video tours for pregnant mamas to view, and some are even hosting live virtual tours so that you can ask questions in real-time!
The reason I recommend this so whole-heartedly is because visualization is SUCH a key aspect of birth preparation. Being able to picture the room you will labor and give birth in is a powerful tool. There’s a good chance some of you have never even been to the hospital where this monumental event is going to happen, so seeing it virtually is definitely worthwhile.
Follow up your virtual hospital tour with a little drive-by. Doing a drive to the hospital with your partner will familiarize you with the parking situation, where the entrance is, and any other location-related info that will make the big day smoother!
2. Utilize online childbirth education
YAAAS. Childbirth education is truly one of the best ways to prepare yourself for a better birth – pandemic or not. And right now, an online version is a greater option than ever! You can do it safely from home, at your own pace, and re-watch anything that’s confusing, or you feel like you missed.
The other awesome part about an online class is that you can choose something that’s really catered to your exact needs and the birth YOU want.
Here’s a quick look at what you’ll learn:
- Choosing your provider and hospital
- How to make a birth plan
- Advocacy in prenatal care and birth
- How to prep your body for labor
- All about contractions and the anatomy of labor
- Epidurals and other pain options
- Natural pain management and pushing tips
- Partner support and SO MUCH more!
And aside from really preparing you and erasing some of that birth-unknown, childbirth education sets you up to create a more informed birth plan and inevitably will spark more questions and dialogue between you and your provider.
3. Connect with other mamas virtually
There’s no one that can commiserate, share ideas, and appreciate what you’re going through better than other pregnant mamas! So now more than ever I encourage you to get on some great pregnancy apps and websites and get active on forums.
You can also connect with other pregnant women on Instagram and in Facebook groups. I see so much community support in the comment sections on my Instagram feed posts AND over on the Mommy Labor Nurse Facebook page, too.
4. Continuously ask about COVID-related policies and protocols
This is a really big one that IS very different because of COVID-19. The role of self-advocacy is always important in pregnancy, but right now it’s especially important.
Check-in regularly about the ever-changing policies and safety protocols in place at your birthplace so that you are ready for what to expect.
Some things to ask about specifically:
- Policies regarding support people:
- How many support people can you have?
- Do they have to wear a mask the whole time?
- Can they come and go?
- Do they need to provide a negative COVID test?
- Will they be tested for COVID?
- What if my partner is sick
- What if my partner has COVID?
- Policies surrounding YOU:
- Will you be tested for COVID when you check in to give birth?
- What does it mean for labor and birth in the rare event you test positive?
- What will happen to baby if mom or partner is COVID positive?
- If I’m COVID positive, can I still breastfeed? Will baby be taken away from me?
- Do I have to wear a mask while I labor?
- Do I have to wear a mask when other medical staff members are in the room?
- Policies surrounding your hospital stay:
- Will my hospital stay be shortened if you and baby are stable?
- Are visitors allowed? Are their specific regulations on visitors?(some facilities are allowing one adult visitor at a time but no children)
- Are there food-related regulations or restrictions on things like take-out, hospital food, and bringing my own packed food?
- Are there any limits or restrictions related to what I can pack in your hospital bag?
- Can your support person come and go?
- How can you include extended family and loved ones VIRTUALLY?
- What kind of technology is available to you (largely, how’s wifi?)?
- Policies surrounding the NICU:
- What are NICU visitation rules? Can my partner and I both go to visit baby?
- If mom or partner is sick and/or COVID positive at any point during baby’s NICU stay what does this mean?
- Are there any other COVID-specific NICU protocols I should be aware of?
Setting up and finding postpartum support during the pandemic
This is SO, SO important. I am hearing a lot of anecdotal evidence about an increase in postpartum depression and other postpartum mood disorders. And this totally makes sense! Postpartum is already a super challenging time for mamas.
The newborn days can be quite isolating and lonely as it is, add on the COVID layer, and it’s really tough. We aren’t meant to go through the monumental transition into motherhood alone, unsupported.
Yet, I totally understand why mamas are choosing to be extra careful and extra isolated with a newborn around during these times.
Here are some ways you can find postpartum support even in the midst of all this:
- Ask for no-contact support in the form of meals, laundry help, and errands! These are all things loved ones can do without risking exposure
- Text, FaceTime, and call people! This might seem obvious, but staying connected, telling your story, and sharing your experience goes a long way. I even heard from one mama that she assigned certain days of the week to different friends and family so that they would text, call and connect with HER.
- Get involved with live, virtual support groups. I know in my area there are a few different new mom groups, baby and me groups, and breastfeeding support groups that happen weekly, virtually! Call your practice to find out when and where these are happening. I also know that Le Leche League hosts all kinds of free online meetings and support groups. You can sign up on their Facebook event page.
- Consider hiring a postpartum doula who can come into your home and may be adhering to strict safety precautions or learn about virtual postpartum doula support and services!
Recognize that a COVID-19 pregnancy is not what you expected
Ugh. I know it’s crappy, mama. There’s no way around it. Pregnancy in a pandemic is probably not at ALL how you envisioned things.
I think it’s important to recognize that and take the time to mourn that fact. It’s okay to wish you could do a baby shower, and go out shopping with your mama.
And maybe you wish you could connect with other mamas, meet up for prenatal yoga – I hear that. And I’m SO hopeful that there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel.
But if you’re pregnant now, in the time of COVID, you just have to do your best to keep you and baby safe. Lean into technology for connection and support, and allow education to be your beacon in these crazy times.
This can still be a wonderful time in your life, it just might look a little different than you expected <3