This article was produced in partnership with NHS England’s ‘Help Us Help You’ campaign.
Everyone tells you that no matter how much you try, you can never really prepare for a baby, and that is true. However, do you know what nobody prepared me to be unprepared for? Having a baby in the height of a pandemic.
Firstly, no doubt, because nobody knew that coronavirus would rain down upon us and rule the world with an iron fist. And secondly, no one could prepare me to give birth during a pandemic because we haven’t dealt with anything like this in our lifetime.
Like many mums, I had a birthing plan that can only be described as meticulous. I had written, or rather typed, the songs that would be played to keep me calm in the labour room, the medication I did and didn’t want, and even the words my husband would say when I was at my most distressed.
However, I knew that my birthing plan wouldn’t go to… well… plan when the rules and regulations came into play that stipulated that I had to see my midwife by myself. As soon as I went in for the first appointment without my husband by my side, we decided that from then on, we would write down questions he wanted to know from my midwife and questions I may forget to ask.
Speaking to a midwife is the best way to wipe away any fears you may have.
Having the questions written down in the back of my maternity book was essential in helping me keep a clear mind while dealing with pregnancy hormones and navigating the new restrictions and understandable fears around Covid-19. I would tell any mother-to-be going to appointments in the current pandemic, especially if you have to face your midwife alone, to write down your questions, your partner’s questions and anything else that is on your mind before your appointment.
After my first appointment alone, I did have my reservations about keeping my final two appointments. I guess I was anxious about being exposed to Covid-19 – an unnecessary worry in all honesty, as my maternity clinic, like all healthcare centres, took all the necessary precautions to protect us from compromising situations. I know everyone loves to give new mums advice, but if there is one piece of advice I can give to any new mum expecting a bundle of joy: keep your appointments!
Also, take advantage of your midwives! Pick their brains, talk to them about your concerns from health, the development of your unborn baby, to what to expect from your midwives during labour. Nothing is off limits and it is how we ensure that we stay safe and healthy during our pregnancies. If your appointments are face to face, virtual or over the phone, keep them. Speaking to a midwife is the best way to wipe away any fears you may have and it put my mind at rest on numerous occasions. It is daunting doing some of these appointments by yourself, but as an expectant mum your health and the health of this human we’ve spent 40 weeks growing is the most important thing.
While I kept to all my appointments – scans, midwife check ups, etc – I also made time to get my vaccinations, so the flu, whooping cough and tetanus vaccinations. I know we hear ‘don’t go to the hospital or doctor’s surgery unless it’s urgent’ due to the strain on the NHS at the moment, well, those vaccinations are urgent as they protect you and your baby. Yes, coronavirus has had an impacted our lives in way we all couldn’t have imagined, but don’t let the pandemic stop us getting the healthcare we need and are entitled to. Routine vaccinations protect us and our little ones from harmful diseases that exist. So put you and your baby first by ensuring that you get the vaccinations recommended, and if you’ve missed any, make sure you rebook them with your GP. Practices have measures in place to minimise any risk to you and your family.
When it came to D-Day and giving birth, I ended up giving birth alone. It was without doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever done. However, this is something no woman should have to face and that is no longer the case. You can have your birthing partner by your side whether you are having a vaginal birth or C-section like me. Don’t let anyone tell you different – it is your right to be supported in arguably the most life-defining experience. As long as your partner isn’t displaying signs of Covid-19, they can be by your side every push of the way, something every woman deserves and something I wish I had.
Every woman should speak up if they think something isn’t right.
When I brought my daughter home, I had a tough decision to make and that was the decision to not let family and friends see our daughter. Trust your instincts on what feels right for you. If you don’t feel comfortable having visitors, don’t, and check what the latest rules are for your area. Of course, our families were upset and there were tears, but as a mum you have to do what feels right. Trusting your gut shouldn’t just be with relatives and in the aftermath of having your baby – trust your gut while navigating the healthcare system. Every woman should speak up if they think something isn’t right but it would be remiss of me not to emphasise to black women especially the importance of speaking up when giving birth. There is no way around the statistics that black women are five times more likely to die in childbirth, so if something doesn’t feel right – speak up. You know your body better than anyone else.
One of the things that made the whole experience of giving birth easier was my midwife. I actually looked forward to our appointments because she was warm and I was able to communicate both my excitement and worries. Your midwife is there to support you on this incredible journey, so talk to your midwife about any and everything.
There is so much advice out there for new mums that it can be overwhelming. I felt exactly the same way this time last year as I was wobbling towards my third trimester. From Covid-19 being faint headlines in the news then to now being the main news story of the day, everyday, it’s important that mums to be are equipped with the knowledge and confidence needed to give birth during a pandemic.
The NHS has produced this animation to talk you through how services might be different and what to expect. Also, the NHS has produced these leaflets (here and here) to talk you through caring for your newborn during the pandemic.
If you have any other questions about what to expect during pregnancy and birth throughout the pandemic, take a look at the NHS’s information page on Pregnancy and Coronavirus.