Pregnancy and COVID-19
Here at the Positive Birth Company we are passionate about empowering you to have positive pregnancies, births and postpartum experiences. And we were doing that really well. We still are doing that really well, but we weren’t expecting a global pandemic.
We definitely weren’t expecting that there would be a global pandemic that would seriously affect how women and pregnant people access and engage with maternity care. And it sucks. Depending on where you are in the world, there will be different restrictions at different times, nothing seems to stay the same for long enough to make plans or to be able to rely on anything solid. BUT, we know that relaxation is central to birth – we know that keeping adrenalin down is really fundamental to your body’s ability to labour, and so we focus on what we can control rather than what we cannot.
I have to attend scans without my partner.
Focus on : Ask if there is a policy on recording sound or video as part of the scan appointment. Ensure that your partner is as close by as possible – ie outside in the car rather than you going alone. Then if there is anything found at the scan that needs discussion or planning, you can ask if your partner can be allowed in for that. Remember that although scans are an exciting chance to see your baby, they are a screening tool and the sonographer is less concerned about the sex of your baby and much more interested in ensuring that they are growing and developing healthily. Although it is disappointing for your partner to miss seeing the scan live – it is important that you have access to support should there be anything concerning that needs to be discussed.
Not coming to the scans may make your partner feel less involved in the pregnancy – so get them involved in your relaxation practice. Reading relaxation scripts which encompass triggers for deeper relaxation, such as arm stroking, not only help you to feel calm in the moment but will improve your sleep and your experience of pregnancy. The extra benefit is that your partner is learning practical skills to support you through labour and birth.
I have to attend midwife or doctor appointments without my partner
Focus on : Practice asking questions! We know it can seem daunting to ask professionals questions – especially if by asking the question you may be disagreeing with their advice. We have strong social conditioning to do as we are told by people that we perceive to be in power (think of how you were taught to behave acceptably in school!). Remember that midwives and doctors are partners in your care, but that all the power lies with you. By using the B.R.A.I.N acronym (Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Instinct and Nothing) you can consider all of your options – but you need to feel able to ask the questions. It may feel silly, but role play asking questions with your partner – or ask them out loud in the mirror – before your appointments. A bit like learning your lines before going on stage, practicing asking questions can make asking them much easier on the day. And once you have asked the first question, you are likely to realise that your team are very willing to work with you.
Another great thing to remember is to ask your midwife or doctor ‘can you write that down for me please?’ This will help you to pass information clearly to your partner, it will make sure that the professional is giving you clear information (more likely to use jargon or acronyms in your maternity notes) and can help you to reflect on the information when you get home.
Also focus on the waiting room! As a practicing midwife I have noticed this year that pregnant women and people are speaking to each other while waiting for their appointment. In a year when we have been ‘socially distant’ being alone in antenatal clinic waiting rooms has meant that chat is easier and lots of new friendships are being created, where previously you would probably have talked with your partner instead. Hearing women getting to know each other outside my clinic room is really heartwarming!
I may have to be admitted to hospital alone
Focus on : Preparation! Sometimes a hospital admission is part of pregnancy – and for those of you who have come to pregnancy with pre-existing medical conditions, and those which may have developed in pregnancy, this is much more likely. So be ready! Have a hospital admission/early labour kit bag ready and waiting to go. Think in advance what you might want to have with you for an overnight stay, and make those things as nice as you can! Think new pjs, some favourites in your washbag, an eye mask and ear plugs so that you can block out everyone else and get some sleep, a book you have been looking forward to reading – or save that new season of your favourite programme for when you need it, and take a device to watch it on! If you have older children have back up plans for childcare in place so that you can relax knowing that a quick call will have them sorted – maybe even leave a bag of their things with whoever is going to help out to really minimise your workload. Reframing an antenatal admission like a mini break can at least remove some of the negative feelings associated with being advised to stay in.
I have heard that my partner won’t be allowed to be with me until I am in established labour.
Focus on : Knowing the facts. So, firstly, what does this mean?!
If your admission might be in early labour, and strict restrictions mean that partners can only attend when you are in established labour then also think about labour environment comforts – use your five senses to guide you, each of them should be met with something that increases your oxytocin and decreases your adrenalin.
Written on behalf of The Positive Birth Company by Senior NHS Midwife Hannah O’Sullivan.