From antenatal classes to midwife appointments and NCT meet-ups – your last trimester of pregnancy is usually bursting with social occasions. Even maternity leave can be a frenzied period, made up of last-minute coffees with friends, or shopping to stock up on supplies for your imminent new arrival.
But with the world in the grip of a coronavirus pandemic – and with many people choosing to, or having to, self-isolate – women expecting a baby in the next few weeks will have a very different experience indeed.
Many may feel added anxiety at what is already a turbulent time, even though current medical advice suggests pregnant women are no more susceptible to coronavirus than anyone else, and there is no evidence that the virus can pass to your developing baby. But that doesn’t stop mums-to-be worrying.
“The main thing I want to know is, will my husband be able to stay with me?” says expectant mum Elly Branner. “I’m concerned they may limit visitors and extend to birth partners. We have our 32-week scan later today. To be honest, it’s the lack of information that is more perplexing. I’d rather be brave and prepared for a worst case than a ‘hope for the best’ scenario.”
Some are considering home births – mum-to-be Zosia is hoping her midwife will be able to talk through alternative birthing options. “I imagine they are all inundated with questions like this at the moment,” she says. “As a first-time mum, this is a very unanticipated extra worry.”
Victoria Cameron, 43, lives in Glasgow, and is due on 3 April. “It’s my first baby, which I conceived through IVF. I’m keeping well, but I keep thinking I’d hate to be ill when trying to give birth – the mere thought of pushing this baby out is terrifying in itself, without being ill at the same time!”
She’s largely been staying at home anyway, as she’s “so big, heavy and gets tired so easily”. But she’s still attending the hospital for midwife appointments and scans, as well as antenatal classes at her local hospital. “Interestingly, last week everyone sat next to each other, but on Wednesday night, everyone walked in, sanitised their hands and sat with one chair in between each person.”
“I notice myself jumping out of the way of anyone who is coughing around me.”
Cameron is due to meet up with 10 friends on Sunday for a get-together before her baby arrives, but she’s left wondering if it’s a good idea. “And yesterday, I was out shopping and noticed myself jumping out the way of anyone coughing around me,” she adds.
“Also, lots of friends have been messaging me telling me to bulk-buy formula and nappies while I can. I hadn’t considered that but they’re probably right.”
The mum-to-be describes it as an “odd thing” to be experiencing while pregnant. “You feel so protective of your bump, and your immune system isn’t as effective,” she says. “And of course, when the baby arrives, you want them to be healthy and happy. The last thing you want to worry about is a pandemic.”
For Hannah Whitten, 28, the experience is a “really worrying and heartbreaking time”. She lives in Malaga and is expecting her first baby on 17 March. “Everything was going to plan... until now,” she says.
Whitten has been off on maternity leave for two weeks and has enjoyed getting out, going for walks and meeting friends for breakfast. “But now, as the media has gone crazy with reporting and people I know are contracting it, I’ve chosen to stay in,” she says.
Family members who were due to fly out from the UK for her birth are having to change plans or not come out at all. “It’s not how I imagined the birth of our first baby and it’s left me really upset,” she says. “It’s scary to even go outside.”
“It’s not how I imagined the birth of our first baby and it’s left me really upset.”
Whitten says the virus has completely taken away her excitement and replaced it with nothing but fear and stress. “I find myself cleaning the flat constantly. It has completely robbed me of what should be the most wonderful time of my life,” she says.
“It’s sad now, too, because when baby is here, I was excited to have people over and go for walks. But now I can’t see us leaving the house, and I’m not allowing visitors for a while. It’s all so sad.”
If you’re self-isolating, there are ways you can do it without getting cabin fever. Read more the latest advice and information on coronavirus.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on www.rethink.org.