This post has been a long time coming, I actually started it ages ago and it’s been sat in my drafts for months. But now I’ve had more time to reflect on my experience of being pregnant at the height of the Covid pandemic, I wanted to finish this post and publish it.
This is going to be one of those long and chatty posts, so I hope you’re ready for a good read!
This post is almost 4000 words long. Oops!
When we tried for a baby, Coronavirus was getting bad in Italy. We had a couple of positive Coivd19 cases in the UK but I very stupidly thought that the virus wouldn’t make its way in the UK. Two weeks later, on Friday the 13th March 2020, I was holding three positive pregnancy tests. That same evening, Boris Johnson came on TV and advised people not to go out to bars and pubs and try and stay at home as much as possible.
The following Monday, I called my manager to tell him that I was around four and a half a week pregnant. I decided it was best to tell him as soon as possible as that weekend, things seemed to really escalate with coronavirus and I wanted him to know my situation. It’s a good job that I did, as the Monday evening, Boris was on TV again putting pregnant women in the ‘at risk’ category saying they should stay at home for 12 weeks.
Luckily I had a really great boss. He called me the Tuesday morning and told me to clear my diary and work from home until they knew more about what my company was officially doing around people ‘at risk’.
A few days later, the company updated their people policies so people at risk did not have to work, or should work from home, for the next 12 weeks and would be fully supported with pay. To cut a long story short, after the 12 weeks, that was extended for pregnant women until mid-August, where I was referred to occupational health. I spoke to some nurse that clearly didn’t want to make a decision about me going back to work and said as I was in the third trimester by then and could work from home, I should continue to do so.
I broke up for maternity leave on the 6th of October so essentially have worked at home during my whole pregnancy.
I am so thankful for this because my job involved a lot of travel to speak to different people in different places. If it wasn’t for this being pregnant during the Covid pandemic would have been a lot scarier than it was.
Also, I would have had to take some time off sick as I was so ill and spent a few weeks in bed with morning sickness
I had my booking appointment due for 8 weeks, which had been cancelled due to Coronavirus. Instead, I had a phone call for my initial booking appointment. This also meant that I was not weighed and did not have the first set of blood screenings I should have.
The appointment was also done by someone who was not my midwife, or even in my midwife team and it felt very impersonal. I was suffering really bad with nausea and was hoping for a sympathetic ear but it was more like ‘oh well, it happens, just keep eating ginger’. It felt really rushed and like she was just asking me questions from a checklist. Which I guess she was.
I felt a bit underwhelmed and was hoping it would be a bit friendly. I later met that midwife in hospital and she was just as abrupt then.
A few days after my 8-week appointment, I had some bleeding. I called the doctors and got a callback, the GP, after saying ‘oh no poor you!’ booked me in for a scan the following day. I had to go alone.
It was a pretty scary experience and I was worried that if something had happened, I would have to be the one to come home and tell my partner. I walked into the hospital, handed in my urine sample and was directed to the waiting room with 3 other terrified looking women sat in different corners of the room while my partner drove back home after dropping me off.
I felt scared she was going to say that I wasn’t pregnant, that the test they did with my sample came back negative or something. It’s so strange at 8 weeks, even with pregnancy symptoms, you are still thinking what if there is no baby!
I was then called in to speak to a midwife about what had happened and she explained to me that sometimes bleeding can be very normal in early pregnancy and often isn’t anything to worry about, but we just need to check to make sure as sometimes there can still be some blood in the uterus that needs to come out and we need to check the baby is okay.
Then, I had to wait some more and was called in for the scan. She started, and after a while, she turned the screen to me and told me to look and I could see a little baby with a heartbeat and I instantly started crying. You could see the head and torso and little nubs for arms and feed. Everything looked fine and the baby measured 1.6cm and was the right size for how pregnant I thought I was.
Phew, I was glad to get the all-clear. My partner then picked me up and said he was trying to distract himself while I was at the hospital – but kept thinking ‘what if my baby is dead’. This whole thing is not just stressful for mothers, but also for partners who are often left out and left at home wondering what is going on.
All this was before we had to wear facemasks, which I find so strange!
12 Week Scan
Again, this was another scan I had to go to alone. I was a bit nervous. On TV, scans are shown as a lovely moment where you and your partner see your child for the first time. But in reality, it’s a bit scary, it’s more clinical. You can’t feel your baby moving around inside you, so there’s always that thought in the back of your head that something has gone wrong and there is no heartbeat. Also, this is the scan where you have screenings for Down’s syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome and Patau’s syndrome.
Because I hadn’t had my 8-week bloodwork done, I had to have that done too.
The scan itself went fine, the baby looked so much bigger than the 8-week scan! It looked like an actual human! I was given an estimated due date of 19th November 2020. I then went and had a blood test and off I went. I was also weighed, and this was my ‘booking’ weight, which is a bit odd because I had gained a stone already so my starting BMI wasn’t accurate.
The following day I got a phone call from the hospital, my heart sank. I thought they were going to say something was wrong with the baby or my blood. Apparently, the blood they took was only for the screenings – not what they needed for the 8-week stuff. Also, they said I was meant to see a midwife because I hadn’t seen one face-to-face yet due to covid.
I didn’t realise they took different vials of blood samples for different things as I’ve never been in hospital or anything before! They spoke to me like I was stupid for not getting the blood tests done, but I thought I had.
I went in the next day and had lots of blood taken for various tests. I also mentioned they said on the phone I needed to speak to a midwife and the woman taking the blood pointed the woman sat at the desk and was like ‘well this is a midwife’ and then she looked at me like ‘what do you need to speak to me about’. Thing is, I didn’t know what I was meant to be speaking to her about it’s just what they said on the phone, I assumed there was something they needed to go through with me so I felt a bit stupid. Again.
Again, it was a bit abrupt and clinical. Far from the caring, loving midwives, I had imagined. No empathy shown.
A urine infection
Almost two weeks after my scan, I got another phone call saying someone should have called me but didn’t because something had shown up in my urine indicating a possible infection. It could be nothing but it could be a urine infection. She asked if I felt ill.
Well, I was pregnant and always felt ill and had been throwing up a few days before which I put down to morning sickness. She ended the phone call – the more I thought about it the more I started freaking out that I had a urine infection wish could be pretty bad while pregnant.
At this point, I wasn’t impressed with the care as I had a blood test and urine samples messed up. I feel like I didn’t have a point of contact and I still hadn’t met my midwife. She was just a name on a piece of paper.
I ended up calling the midwives the next day (again, not my midwife team) – they have an hour each morning you can call to ask questions and they looked at my results and explained it a bit better. She said I could call the GP and them to re-test my urine, which I ended up doing. I didn’t hear anything back so assumed that was all fine.
Since the urine sample thing, I had no other contact with anyone until my 20-week scan.
The scan went well, the baby was moving loads and looked great! It looked so much clearer than the 20-week scan and I found out the gender. I already said I wanted to know and when the sonographer was measuring the legs, I got a full-on shot of my little boys manhood.
When I was done with the scan, I had to see a midwife because I hadn’t had a normal 16-week appointment due to coronavirus which should have been done with my midwifery team.
I was weighed again, had my blood pressure done and went through my blood test results from my 12-week scan. I found out my blood was on the low side and I should call the GP and get some iron tablets.
Yeah, so 8 weeks after my blood test I get told my iron is low. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t have let me know sooner? They also said I needed to call and get a whooping vaccination. Again, this appointment was a bit of a tick box exercise and I felt like I was being processed by someone who wasn’t really bothered.
My next task was to call the Dr and ask for iron tablets and my whooping cough vaccination. After being on hold for ages, I got through to an actual human who said someone would call me back. I did get a call back a couple of hours later from a nurse saying she could give me the vaccine today. I asked about the iron and she said I’d have to call about that separately the following day.
So that was a bit annoying as I had to go through the whole being on hold again!
I finally had a face-to-face midwife appointment with a midwife at 25 weeks pregnant! This is when things started to get better with my care.
I was still having to go alone. I had appointments at 25 weeks, 28 weeks, 31 weeks, 34, weeks, 36 weeks, 38 weeks, 40 weeks, 41 weeks.
I had to go to the hospital two times for growth scans during this time, again, alone. Everything was fine, luckily.
I’ve spoken in-depth about my labour in my labour story blog post, so in here I’m just going to stick to the coronavirus related things.
A few days before I went into labour, the hospital’s guidelines had changed. Before, women had to go to the hospital alone and be assessed, if they were in active labour (4cm) then they would be put in a delivery room and their partner could join. If not, then they had to go back home.
The new guidelines were that if there was a room free to be assessed in straight away your partner could come with you. Luckily, this was the case for us. I was assessed with my partner by my side and was 4cm.
I had to have a covid test, which was being done while I was being prepped for my epidural.
I didn’t have to wear a mask, thankfully. After a while, my community midwife told my partner he could take his masks off. She said it’s the discretion of the midwife, so he’s fine to keep it off but if any of the hospital staff come in, then to put it back on.
Because I had a difficult labour and a bleed, they kept me in the delivery room on my own, rather than the shared ward. This meant my partner could stay as long as he wanted. He left about 8 pm that night (we had been there since 3 am).
The next day, he had to book a two-hour slot as that’s all he was allowed. He was coming at 3 pm. I found this really difficult as I was in a lot of pain and discomfort. It was hard lifting Leo in and out of the crib and changing him. I could have really done with him being there to help me.
I expect my aftercare was pretty standard, apart from the midwives wore masks and aprons. I had a visit the day after I got home and the day after that – I then had to go back into hospital for three days due to some complications that I went over in this post.
My care from the community midwife team was very good, I think. I stayed under their care until Leo was 4 weeks old.
Back to hospital
In the hospital, the main problems were that my partner could only stay for two hours so I was on my own, feeling unwell, in pain, not getting sleep and having to look after Leo. I just wanted to go home so he could hold Leo for a few hours while I slept. Apart from having a covid test and my partner being on limited hours, I would expect that my care was how it would have been without coronavirus.
My 6-week postpartum checkup happened at 8 weeks, along with Leo’s 8-week checkup and his injections. It was just a quick ‘how are you’, the main focus was on Leo’s checkup. I told the Dr about a lump I had in my boob and I was referred to the breast clinic for an ultrasound.
A newborn in lockdown
So, after Leo was born we had visits from our parents only. Then we had another lockdown at New Year when he was only 5 weeks old.
This was a blessing if I’m perfectly honest. I struggled a lot during the first few weeks. I was not well with my low iron and still recovering from the birth. I was in pain and discomfort, struggling to move around. Leo was cluster feeding and I needed to be at home, comfortable on the sofa with my boobs out when needed.
I found guests really hard – I couldn’t relax and I had to take the baby upstairs to feed as I wasn’t confident or comfortable to feed in front of others as it often took a while for Leo to get a latch, and the cluster feeding stressed me out so I needed to be in private. So when lockdown happened I did feel a bit relieved that I didn’t have to worry about guests.
Though it was very sad that it took so long for my family to meet Leo and some of my family still haven’t met him yet.
I also wanted to go to some baby groups, but that didn’t happen until he was 5 months old. And when I did go to them the restrictions made it hard to get the interaction I wanted. You had to sit really far apart and it didn’t feel very social.
I understand why social distancing was important and I would never want to put Leo at risk, but it still sucked as I wanted Leo to have interactions with other babies.
Is Leo clingy?
There seems to be this idea that lockdown babies will be clingy. But this isn’t the case at all. He’s really happy with other people! He went through a phase for a few weeks around 7 months where he would cry when he first saw other people, but since then he is fine. He does baby swimming and baby gymnastics and he is really happy for the teachers to take him to do demonstrations. There are some babies in my classes that are quite clingy and just want to hold onto their mum the whole time.
I do bedshare with Leo and there is evidence to suggest that this, as well as responding to his needs and not leaving him to cry can create a secure attachment where he feels confident to explore the world as he knows he can rely on me if needed. I do like to think this is why Leo is not clingy – but it might just be the type of baby he is! Or he could end up clingy in the future.
But for now, Leo is happy with others. It’s only really naps/sleep that he relies on me for because he is still breastfeeding and he feeds to sleep for naps and when he wakes during the night.
How has my maternity care made me feel?
Leo is my first baby, so it’s hard for me to compare my experience of being pregnant during the Covid pandemic with having a baby in pre-Covid times.
But, I would say the first half of my pregnancy I felt disconnected from my care team. It wasn’t until I started having regular appointments with my community midwives (who were FANTASTIC) that I felt like I was in safe and trusted hands. Before that, I was just a bit like a number on a piece of paper being processed. I understand that the hospital was seeing more women for blood tests, urine samples and the 16-week appointment questions than normal and were probably under pressure. But the midwives at the hospital did not seem very empathetic. The ultrasound technicians and most of the midwives I came across during labour were lovely, though.
The communication seemed to be quite poor, it seemed like the midwives/doctors/hospital didn’t communicate with each other very well. Also, things seemed to change so much in regards to what appointments were going ahead and who was doing what during covid that a lot of the people I spoke to often was confused about what they were doing. My blood test mixup, for example, was apparently due to them not being used to doing that task as the midwives usually do it.
How I did I feel being pregnant during coronavirus?
I did feel scared as we didn’t know much about what Covid may do to an unborn baby if the mother had it. I was really afraid that I might get coronavirus during my last trimester and have to give birth on my own with people covered in PPE to protect themselves, or that I may have to be put to sleep or have Leo via a section if I got really ill.
I am lucky that I was able to shield. Work was really good with me and my partner did work from home for the summer term of 2020 and then again in January in February when Leo was really small which was a great help. Both in terms of being able to keep us safe from contracting covid, and to help me when I was really poorly with morning sickness and being able to help me with Leo when he was in the fourth trimester and I was still struggling. Just for him to come down and hold Leo for 5 minutes while I went to the toilet or make me a cup of tea was so useful.
It wasn’t just me that had a hard time with my pregnancy during Covid. My partner was not allowed to go ultrasounds or appointments. We did book a private scan when I was 27 weeks pregnant so he got to see Leo. I had three scans on my own before that appointment.
I’m forever thankful that my pregnancy wasn’t high-risk and my complications at the end were resolved within a week. I would really hate to navigate loss or me/baby in the hospital for longer with the coronavirus restrictions, my whole heart goes out to those that have no been as fortunate. It’s so lonely and scary when there is no one with you to comfort you and also speak to the medical professionals.
It’s so important to have a second pair of ears there because it’s quite easy to fixate on something that’s being said and miss other points. You know when you come out of an interview or exam and you’ve totally forgotten what happened? It can be like that at times.
It is so useful to have someone with you to listen to the conversations and also ask any questions on your behalf if you get overwhelmed or are unable to.
It still makes me feel sad that women were left to labour alone. Only early labour, yes, but getting to 4cms dilated is so painful and scary. Once you get to 4cm, you can get pain relief like epidurals. I was surprised at how painful it was. Early labour doesn’t sound like it’s painful but it really is. Your cervix is opening up and it feels like your insides are exploding.
Yet, women had to labour alone even when nightclubs were opening. Seems backwards to me.