COVID-19 an added stress for Sudbury woman preparing to give birth

For months, Sheri Waddell has been preparing herself for a difficult delivery, and a flood of memories and emotions, when she holds her new baby in her arms. Her last baby, born in 2018, died at one month old.

Pregnant women are adjusting to new expectations for delivery and postpartum experiences

Sheri and Dean Waddell are expecting their fourth child. While Sheri was already preparing for a difficult delivery, she now has the added stress of giving birth during a global pandemic. (Sheri Waddell/Facebook)

For months, Sheri Waddell has been preparing herself for a difficult delivery, and a flood of memories and emotions, when she holds her new baby in her arms. 

Waddell is eight months pregnant with her fourth child, a year and a half after experiencing child loss. Her third baby, a boy named Killian, died at one month old, in October 2018, due to a congenital heart defect. She's excited to welcome a baby girl into her family, but she says her current pregnancy has been a "roller coaster."

"You're just always extra worried, everything is scarier and a little bit more intimidating. And you know, a lot of memories get triggered by the things that happen during pregnancy," Waddell said.

Now, Waddell's anxieties are heightened, as she prepares to give birth during a global pandemic — and grapples with what that will mean for her labour and postpartum experiences. 

'A lot of fear'

At Health Sciences North in Sudbury, where Waddell plans to give birth, there are visitor restrictions in place. She still hopes to have her husband with her in the delivery room, but she said the biggest expectation she's had to adjust to in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, is the reality that she won't be able to have family visit her in hospital — or at home afterwards, because of physical distancing measures. 

"It's going to be extremely difficult to be separated from family. And I think for them as well, because like, they've also dealt with the loss of my son," Waddell said.

Sheri and Dean Waddell's son, Killian, died in October 2018 while waiting for a heart transplant. (Sheri Waddell/Facebook)

Waddell's son spent his short life at Sick Kids in Toronto, meaning some family members weren't able to see him much, Waddell said.  

"So I think this will probably bring up a lot for them as well." 

As she prepares to give birth in hospital in the coming weeks, Waddell said she also worries about what scenarios may unfold.

"The fear if you know you start to show symptoms, are you going to be separated from your baby, and there's a lot of fear around that that is just making anxiety go up like crazy high," Waddell said.

Healthcare providers make adjustments 

At Boreal Midwifery Practice in Timmins, registered midwife Amy Moland-Osborne said she's been hearing similar concerns from some of her clients. Her practice does about 80 per cent of its deliveries in hospital. 

"I think everyone during a pandemic has concerns about delivering in hospital. Although I think it's fair to say that all hospitals in Ontario are taking great, great care to screen people as they come through the door," Moland-Osborne said. 

Moland-Osborne said she has had questions from some clients about whether it would be safer to opt for a home birth instead, but she's been encouraging people to stick with their original birth plans. 

Registered midwife Amy Moland-Osborne said she has heard concerns from some clients about giving birth in a hospital setting, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Kruithof Photography)

"What we've told them is we actually don't have any research that says out of hospital is safer right now than in hospital, or vice versa," Moland-Osborne said.  

"We don't know if it's safe for us to go in someone's house where they may have six other family members living there, and then we are exposed, as care providers, to potentially a virus or a pathogen, that we are then taking into the community and spreading, or it's spreading in the hospital setting."

Given the lack of evidence to suggest one option is more safe, Moland-Osborne said people should make their choice "based on their pre-existing beliefs around what would be best for them."

Meanwhile at the clinic, staff has made adjustments, to mitigate risks as much as possible. Many appointments are now being done by phone, with clients only coming in for essential testing and screening. 

'A new normal'

While Waddell's stress may be more acute, given her past childbirth experience, she said she has friends who are pregnant who are experiencing similar stress. 

"It's a scary time for everybody," Waddell said. 

Sheri Waddell is eight months pregnant with her fourth child. (Sheri Waddell/Facebook)

She's trying to focus on the excitement of welcoming her new baby, and she said she feels grateful for technology, which allows her to keep in close contact with friends and family, even while they're physically separated. 

She said she'll rely on video calls and phone calls in the weeks and months ahead, as she tries to "find a new normal right now with everything that's going on."


Sarah MacMillan is a reporter with CBC Sudbury. She previously worked with CBC P.E.I. You can contact her at