The Current

I'm afraid of getting COVID-19, and what it would mean for my baby, says expectant mother

Having a baby is stressful; having a baby in a pandemic is a whole other matter. We talk to two expectant mothers about their concerns, and a panel of experts about the steps being taken to ensure a high quality of care.

There’s something ‘ethereal’ about delivering babies during pandemic: doctor

Amanda Jacques and her daughter Hazel. Jacques is 35 weeks pregnant. (Submitted by Amana Jacques)

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A woman who is 35 weeks pregnant says the prospect of catching COVID-19 is weighing heavily on her mind. 

"[My biggest concern is] definitely that I could get sick either right before the birth or right after, and what that could mean for the baby," said Amanda Jacques, a radiation therapist in Calgary. 

"My due date is actually at the projected peak for Alberta for COVID, so it just puts a little bit of worry into my mind about what that's going to look like for us," she told The Current's Matt Galloway.

Jacques says she's coping with the concerns by catching up with friends online, and spending time with her "quite entertaining" young daughter Hazel.

Jacques with her husband Mathieu, left, and daughter Hazel, centre. (Submitted by Amanda Jacques)

From a health perspective, ob-gyn Dustin Costescu said "pregnancy itself is not considered a high-risk condition for coronavirus."

"Pregnant women seem to be doing as well as their non-pregnant peers of the same age in overall health. We also know that most babies that get infected have done extremely well," said Costescu, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at McMaster University.

"For those new parents … worried about coming to the hospital to give birth and then going home to their families, or their big little ones at home — at this point, we really don't think there's much risk to them."

Throughout history, children born into uncertainty

Costescu said there is something "ethereal" about delivering babies in this uncertain time, but it's worth remembering children have been born into uncertainty throughout history. 

He tries to reassure parents that they're still being cared for, even in unusual circumstances.

"We might be wearing masks. We might look a little different, but we care about you; you're important and we want to see you," he said.

He said that after attending thousands of births, the fundamental experience doesn't change.

"We still see that spark of joy in parents' eyes as they meet their new little one for the first time."

Dr. Dustin Costescu said physicians are 'doing [their] best to provide general information to patients and their families.' (McMaster University)

Managing anxiety

A research team at the University of Calgary is gauging anxiety among people who are pregnant during the pandemic through a series of online questionnaires.

The study, Pregnancy During the COVID-19 Pandemic, launched April 5 and is still collecting responses. But researcher Catherine Lebel says they're "seeing higher rates of anxiety and pregnancy-related anxiety than we would normally see in pregnant women."

"I think a lot of that has to do with the uncertainty about their situation," said Lebel, Canada Research Chair in pediatric neuroimaging and a professor of radiology at the University of Calgary.

She said those concerns are centred around "what's going to happen when they deliver, what their postpartum experience is going to look like." 

Maria Power gave birth last month, but concerns about COVID-19 were already growing as she approached her due date.

Maria Power gave birth to Wes last month. (Submitted by Maria Power)

"I was noticing just basic supplies, like newborn diapers, were sold out," said Power, who lives in Toronto.

"That would send me into a bit of a panic leading up to the birth, which sounds kind of silly, but it was just these little things we take for granted that were sort of beginning to really stress me out."

After she gave birth to her first child, a boy called Wes, Power learned that her pediatrician was self-isolating and not available. Other contacts, such as her lactation consultant, quickly followed.

"With a newborn freshly born and not a lot of sleep … it was a hectic week or two for sure," she said.

For parents-to-be in similar positions, Costescu said physicians are "doing [their] best to provide general information to patients and their families."

Pregnant women choosing midwives over hospitals during COVID-19 pandemic

2 years ago
Duration 2:06
Worried about going into a hospital or being separated from their partners during the COVID-19 pandemic, pregnant women across the country look to midwives as an alternative. 2:06

But the difficulty lies in how quickly our understanding of the pandemic is changing, along with the steps taken to combat the illness.

"For someone, for instance, who's 35 weeks pregnant, we know that will be different by the time they come in for labour and delivery," he said. 

He said he's working with expectant parents to "get them thinking about how to be adaptable to some of these changes."

"To be thinking about what parts of their birth experience are going to be important for them to hold on to, and what parts of them they might be able to let go of, or reframe."

Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Samira Mohyeddin and Rachel Levy-McLaughlin.

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