'Will I miscarry?': Pregnant Manitoba mom shares fears after contracting COVID-19

Hilda Garson never imagined she would be having a baby during the pandemic, but she was shocked when she tested positive for COVID-19 just 15 weeks into her pregnancy.

Hilda Garson is one of 4 pregnant women in province who have tested positive

28-year-old Hilda Garson seen here with her partner Bruce Rosa, is one of four Manitobans who has tested positive for COVID-19 while pregnant. She is now symptom-free, but still worries about the health of her unborn baby. (Hilda Garson)

Hilda Garson never imagined she would be having a baby during the pandemic, but she was shocked when she tested positive for COVID-19, just 15 weeks into her pregnancy.

Garson is one of four pregnant women in Manitoba who tested positive for COVID-19 since early March, according to the province's surveillance stats online. 

The 28-year-old, who is also a Winnipeg nurse, tested positive back in March and is now symptom-free.

But she still worries about the future.

"My biggest concern right now is still not having a full idea of how my baby is doing," said Garson.

She believes she contracted the virus while on a trip to Playa del Carmen in Mexico.

Garson said she started feeling sick after she returned to Winnipeg on March.15.

She immediately self-quarantined for 14 days as required by government public health orders.

Lost sense of smell and taste

"My symptoms weren't terrible. I lost my sense of smell and taste, a little bit of tiredness, but it was hard to differentiate that with being pregnant in my first trimester," she said.

Garson said she didn't have typical symptoms of a cough and fever, but got tested anyway because she's a nurse. 

When the test came back positive, she had so many questions.

"Will I miscarry?" she said. "How is my unborn baby going to be? 

"I was definitely scared at first, and I was in disbelief because my symptoms were so mild."

Garson said self-isolating at home was a challenge because she also worried about passing the virus on to her 12-year old-son and her partner. 

"There was a fear of miscarrying and trying to navigate at home with my 12-year-old helping him with his school work," she said.

Fetus is healthy

Garson is now 21 weeks pregnant. Her doctor told her the fetus is healthy.

"My blood work and ultrasound has come back fine, but you just don't know and it's all so new," she said.

"At the end of the day it's the unknown that's scary right?"

The World Health Organization says it's still unknown whether a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the disease on to her baby during pregnancy, but it hasn't found samples of the novel coronavirus in amniotic fluid or breast milk.

Hilda Garson, 28, is pregnant and now symptom-free after testing positive for COVID-19 in March. Doctors tell her the baby is healthy but she still worries about the future. (Hilda Garson)

Garson has been a registered nurse for four years and plans to keep working until her delivery date.

That's something that worries her family back home in Split Lake, Man.

"My family does not like me working but I do have to pay the bills and make a living." 

She says she is very careful at work, and has been getting a lot of support from colleagues and management.

"I'm less anxious than before … it's been two months now since I tested positive, and I think the worry has kind of gone down a bit."

Restrictions tough on partner

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began there have been some changes to the way prenatal care and deliveries are being done in Manitoba.

Pregnant women can't bring anyone to the hospital with them for blood work or ultrasound appointments.

Garson said those restrictions have been difficult for her partner.

"This is his first child so he really wants to be there, and he's missing out on a lot of things."

Health officials say pregnant women who don't need to be seen in person are having appointments done over the phone. 

 "There are visits in between that can be done virtually, and our obstetrical care providers are working hard to identify which cases can be seen for specific visits," said Dr. Vanessa Poliquin, an obstetrician with Health Sciences Centre and a specialist in reproductive infectious diseases.

"People are going to be dressed up more, so there's a little bit more personal protective equipment that's being used, and what exactly is being used depends on the circumstances," she said. 

But Poliquin said women in labour are allowed to have their partner in the delivery room with them.

"For a woman who is in labour or in the postpartum period, she has the ability to have one support person come in the hospital with her." 

Poliquin said pregnant women are not at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than others.

... for the vast majority of cases, infants have been born at term and healthy.- Dr. Vanessa Poliquin

"They're no more likely to become infected and no more likely to have severe consequences of being infected compared to another woman of the same age." said Poliquin.

"And pregnant women who have contracted COVID-19 have done very well with mostly mild to moderate symptoms, and for the vast majority of cases, infants have been born at term and healthy." 

Poliquin said expectant moms can get online supports to deal with anxiety during the pandemic which can be accessed on the Shared Health website. 

Churchill woman travelling east to deliver her baby

Rebecca Hunt is 29 weeks pregnant and lives in Churchill, Man., about 1,000 km north of Winnipeg

For years, there have been no planned deliveries done in the north, only emergency births. 

Pregnant women in remote communities are sent to Winnipeg or Thompson to have their babies.

Rebecca Hunt is 29 weeks pregnant and lives in Churchill, where planned deliveries are not being done. She says the pandemic is forcing her to travel to Newfoundland to have her baby for peace of mind, so she can be with family. (Rebecca Hunt)

But Hunt is choosing to go to Newfoundland, where her whole family lives.

Her flight leaves Thursday afternoon. 

"I can't wait, I have a great support system in Newfoundland but I just don't have any family in Winnipeg," she said.

Hunt said travel restrictions have prevented ultrasound technicians from travelling to the north.

"It's been so weird — a lot of my appointments have been done virtually."

Hunt said she's feeling less anxious about contracting COVID-19 after reassurance from her doctor.

"But there's not a lot of research to back it up yet, which is kind of scary." 

Hunt is nervous about leaving her husband behind in Churchill.

"He's an essential worker," she said. "He's unable to go because of the quarantine period of 14 days there, that takes a lot of time away from him spending time with us," Hunt said.

Her baby is due in July and she plans to reunite with her husband when she returns to Churchill in August.