'I Tested Positive For Coronavirus While I Was In Labour'

Birth Diaries: One mum describes how she felt an "overwhelming sense of guilt" when finding out she had Covid-19 – despite having no symptoms.

In HuffPost Birth Diaries we hear the extraordinary stories of the everyday miracle of birth. This week, Steph Almond shares her story. If you’d like to share yours, email amy.packham@huffpost.com.

I was heavily pregnant with my first baby, with an induction planned for a Friday in early May – several weeks into the lockdown. Everything seemed to go fine. There were precautions, of course, and people wearing PPE, but, initially, the main difference was that my husband had to wait in the car outside.

The later stages of my pregnancy had been strange. I’d had my baby shower the weekend before lockdown, then a few weeks working from home. But the first three weeks of maternity leave were sitting around with nothing to do.

Going into the hospital alone that day was a little unnerving. I didn’t want to make decisions on my own or answer questions I didn’t know. We had the attitude of: talk about everything we could beforehand.

After the induction, they sent me home and I had contractions all that evening – which got increasingly painful. Late that night, I rang up and was told to go back in. As I was in labour by now, my husband was allowed to come in with me.

We were in a birthing centre in the hospital, which was relaxing. The midwife looking after us had a mask on, but everything otherwise was normal. She told me they’d need to test me for coronavirus – this was routine – and I had a swab test. That bit was horrendous, especially while also having contractions.

The labour was progressing quickly. I spent time in the pool, then moved to the couch. I remember someone calling the midwife out of the room at one point and I could hear muttering. I was exhausted and in pain. My midwife came back in: “I need to let you know you’ve tested positive for Covid-19,” she said.

I looked at my husband with fear. What did it mean? I had no symptoms, no idea how I’d got it. I’d not left the house for a month. I worried what it meant for my baby, but most of all, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. Was everyone judging me? Did they think I was irresponsible? I assumed they were thinking it was my fault, so I kept apologising. They said it was fine, to not worry about it. From then on, anyone who came into the room had to be fully in PPE.

But after the initial shock, I forgot about it because it was such a difficult labour, pushing for hours with nothing happening. That was the only issue on my mind. I was moved into the delivery suite – with the idea that they might need to use forceps. They had to get the room ready – which was complicated – and decide how to move me safely. It all took quite a while.

In the end, it wasn’t even a forceps delivery. I just kept pushing and pushing. It was awful. The baby pooed inside me quite a lot – he was barely conscious when he came out and my husband was traumatised. My son was immediately given checks, then placed on top of me. I’d laboured through the night, so we were introduced to each other at 7.34am on the Saturday morning.

I’d been so focused on getting him out, I’d forgotten about coronavirus.

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I became more conscious of it after he was born. They had to keep us in that room; they couldn’t risk moving us on to the ward near anyone else.

For the next 12 hours, anyone who came in was in full PPE, and they couldn’t leave to get something once they were in with us. Everything took longer. And I felt guilty the whole time, like it was a massive inconvenience.

My husband eventually went home to get some rest, while I stayed in with my son for 12 hours of monitoring. This finished at midnight and they were satisfied we could go home. I had to call my husband to wake him to come get me, not realising I’d be going home in the early hours.

Getting home was strange, as we hadn’t been given much information on what to do about my positive test. We stayed indoors and self-isolated, of course. My midwife phoned to check me in the days that followed, but no one came to see us until day seven. Those first few days were hard. I struggled a lot.

When the midwife visited, she was fantastic. She made me feel comfortable and checked over my son. But I was still quite nervous in those first few weeks. I was scared to tell anyone I knew about my positive test. It was embarrassment more than anything. There was definitely a sense of shame.

We’re doing well now. I still think about what I missed out on in terms of support but while I could’ve done with more help, I cannot speak highly enough of our local services. The community midwives have been amazing, letting me ring up and ask questions – even though I felt bad harassing people. It wasn’t how I expected my birth to go, by all means, but I’m so happy we’re all safe.

My birth advice?

Don’t be afraid to hassle anyone with questions. That’s what I’m realising. If you’re not sure who to call, call the hospital and they will be able to signpost you to someone else if that’s needed. Don’t panic. This is the reality. Oh, and take lots of photos!