Covid and pregnancy: How the pandemic changed the experience

I found out I was pregnant January 2020. At that point, I didn’t know much about the coronavirus or how serious it was going to become. It wasn’t until around late February that the concern of covid and pregnancy really started coming to light.

By March there were talks of shutdowns, and sure enough by the end of the month, it happened. As a veterinary technician I was still required to go to work as an essential worker. Animals were still getting sick and needed my help to get better.

It was at this point that I started trying to get information on covid and pregnancy and how it could affect the baby and I. It was difficult to find information. What I found related to women in China being pregnant and giving birth with the coronavirus. They seemed to be recovering with no serious complications. This was a relief but I also knew it was too early to know all the implications.

As time went on, I really started to understand how much this pandemic was going to change my experience of being pregnant and becoming a first-time mom.

Trips to the doctor’s office…alone

The first couple trips to the doctor were normal. My husband was able to join me and be a part of the experience. He was even able to be there for our 7 week ultrasound. This was extremely important and nerve wrecking since our first pregnancy was a miscarriage.

We also were able to get a 13-week ultrasound done to reveal the gender of our baby. It was right around the start of March when things started to get serious with covid restrictions. Sure enough, it wasn’t long after that I was informed that “until further notice, no additional guests were allowed to join for doctor visits”.

My husband was livid, as he had every right to be. It didn’t make sense that someone who lives in the same household, who was the father of this child, could not be a part of the experience. Also, if he was exposed to COVID-19 then so would I have been.

Visits to listen for the heartbeat in person were missed. My 20-week ultrasound was spent alone with the sonographer. And what was even worse is they wouldn’t even let my husband video chat since it was a medical procedure.

I must say, my midwife was amazing and very understanding and would let me call my husband at the appointments to let him listen to the heartbeat. I could also record the sound only to play for him later.

It continued like this all the way up until I went into labor. For this part they would allow one support person, thankfully. I would have considered giving birth at home if they would not have allowed my husband, the father of my child to be there.

Gender reveal, baby shower and missed family time

Since we had been through a brief pregnancy the year prior we already knew how we wanted to do our gender reveal. We were going to get powder filled golf balls, rent out the banquet space at the local golf course, have all of our friends and family there, go to the driving range and clobber the golf balls to reveal the gender of our baby for all to see.

This pregnancy, we had the room booked well in advance and were preparing the invites. We were going to have the party the weekend of my birthday which is early April. I thought it would be the perfect birthday gift to find out the gender of our baby.

As talk of shutdowns started to rise, we began to realize our plans for a gender reveal party may be in jeopardy. Sure enough, in March we had to cancel the party plans. We still made the best of it and exploded the golf balls in our backyard on Facebook live so our friends and family could still be a part of the experience.

Next came the baby shower. As a first-time mom, I feel like this experience is a rite of passage. All the wonderful women (and sometimes men, although this is not my husbands cup of tea) join together to shower the mom and dad-to-be, with love and adorable baby outfits, among other things.

It was summer and while covid was still very much present, things had started to open back up. I made the decision to have a baby shower. I did however know that not everyone that I would invite to attend would feel comfortable doing so. It was completely understandable if that was the case.

Finally, there was the overall missed time that I would have normally spent with family and friends. Lots of people never even saw me in person while I was pregnant. No rubbing of the belly or feeling her kick. Very few people got to experience this and it was sad knowing we will never get that time back.

My husband and I made the best of the situation and shared with those closest to us that felt comfortable enough to be around.

Getting through pregnancy as an essential worker

Being a veterinary technician is a physically and emotionally demanding job, especially at a 24-hour emergency and specialty hospital. Being pregnant and restricted in what I am able to do adds an extra complication to the situation. Then finally, dealing with covid and pregnancy and going to an essential job was way more than I could have anticipated.

It started with the minor things, like having to wear a mask every day at work. We were going into summer and I was due in September. It is bad enough to be pregnant in summer, let alone having to wear a mask and be hot ALL THE TIME. I was overheated and dehydrated like no other.

I was on my feet all day and my body was really starting to feel the strain the last few months of pregnancy. To better support my back, I attempted to wear an abdominal support band. That lasted a whopping 2 hours tops! Every time I went outside to grab a patient or give one back to their owners we had to wear gloves, a gown and face shield. This all added to the sweat ball that I was becoming every single day.

Then came the real emotional stresses. As if the roller coaster of hormones during pregnancy wasn’t enough. Primary veterinaries were closing and even some emergency hospitals due to government restrictions and positive covid cases. This meant a huge influx in the amount of patients we were seeing. There were more pets that needed care than we could handle.

Desperate pet parents were at a loss for how to get their beloved furry family members the medical attention they needed. If it wasn’t critical or life threatening, there were times we had to turn people away, which was heartbreaking.

As the supervisor of the entire specialty department support staff I felt it my duty to help out where ever and when ever I could. Phones were ringing off the hooks and so many of my coworkers were on the verge of tears or quitting daily. I couldn’t help but feel all the emotions with them.

I went to work every single day and did not call out once my entire pregnancy. My commitment to my team and the sake of the animal’s well being kept me going each day. As well as being thankful that I still had a job to go to everyday, where many people did not.

Labor and delivery…not quite the traditional experience I imagined

Since I could remember, I had always said when I gave birth I want to be in a hospital with the option for such things as an epidural, NICU, etc. if needed. I am a modest person so I already knew I wanted a limited number of people in the room for the delivery.

I knew that labor and delivery could be unpredictable so I was ready to be open-minded and go with the flow as needed. Ultimately, all that truly mattered was getting our baby out safely.

Once covid hit, I knew I was going to have to rethink my “game plan” quite a bit. Now the idea of being at the hospital was the last place I wanted to be. With increased risk of exposure there, I didn’t want to put my baby or myself at risk.

I decided the birthing center would be a safer option over the hospital since we would have fewer people and staff surrounding us. I was hoping they would be a little more lax on their covid policies. I had heard that women in labor had to wear a mask the whole time and I knew there was no way I was tolerating that.

This also meant no epidural. Thankfully, if anything went wrong or I changed my mind about drugs, we were an elevator ride and sky bridge away from the hospital. It was comforting having that as a back up plan if I changed my mind at any point.

Going to birthing classes was also no longer an option and the only format available was online. I felt like we were going to miss out on a valuable experience to prepare for the birth of our child. We thought it would be a good idea to hire a Doula to help guide and coach us through the pregnancy and delivery.

I went into labor as many other women have, with a rude awakening of a contraction early in the morning. The process progressed in usual fashion and soon I was going through intense contractions and laboring at home for as long as I could. I was surrounded by my husband, Doula, and mother.

Eventually we headed off to the birthing center. I was sent home once, then came back later that day to be admitted. After 22 hours of pure back labor, I gave in and requested the epidural. I was transferred to the hospital and gave birth to our beautiful baby girl.

When it came down to it, everyone was on the same page and our main goal was to get our baby girl out as safely and naturally as possible. And that we did!

Covid and pregnancy – One year later

Now that we are at about the year mark from the start of the pandemic, there is a bit more known about how COVID-19 can affect you and/or your baby during pregnancy. As with any pregnancy, your immune system is slightly compromised compared to your non-pregnant self.

That is how I treated it in the early phases of pregnancy during covid since this fact has been known for many years. Pregnant women fall under the higher risk category for being susceptible. So treating it the same as any other disease or illness was my only go to at the time.

There are reports from the CDC that pregnant women are more likely to wind up hospitalized and need ICU admission than if you were not pregnant. With this in mind, it is best to be extra cautious and not take any unnecessary risks.

I want to finish this article by saying I am so incredibly thankful for my health, and the health of my baby. We made it through the pregnancy and delivery without any major complications. I know that many people and families were suffering alone due to the coronavirus and the struggles I faced could have been exponentially worse.

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