Unsplash. (2016). Expecting. photograph, Olsztyn.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has brought about a flurry of worry, doubt, and, for some, complete devastation whether it be due to financial, familial, medical, or mental health circumstances. Pregnant women in particular have experienced and continue to experience pregnancy in a very paranoid world, filled with uncertainty and what feels like inescapable risk. Pregnancy alone comes part and parcel with fear of preterm birth, gestational diabetes, miscarriage, hypertension, sudden infant death syndrome, as well many other complications (NIH, 2017). Despite conflicting studies regarding whether pregnancy suppresses immunity and increases susceptibility to COVID-19, the literature is clear that generally speaking, pregnant women are immunocompromised and therefore more vulnerable to virtually all viruses (CDC, 2020).
The CDC recently released a statement cautioning that pregnant women are at increased risk of developing “severe illness” and “other adverse health outcomes such as preterm birth” as a result of contracting COVID-19 (2020). These risks are certainly alarming and seem impossible to eliminate given the frequent physician visits that are highly recommended. These days, women have to weigh the risks associated with entering their pediatricians office, with the risks of choosing not to. In the event that women do decide to go through with routine check-ups, partners’ attendance is restricted. And after all, appointments deemed unnecessary are subject to last minute cancellations, leaving women frustrated with no one to answer questions or reassure them regarding the health of themselves and their child (PHC, 2019).
Dreamed-about moments such as family ultrasounds, baby showers, and nursery shopping have morphed into burdens as opposed to life’s meaningful moments. Many women have reported feeling extremely lonely due to the lack of both interaction and engagement with their communities as a result of lock-down. Feeling unsupported and unseen can increase the chances of developing postpartum depression and can result in guilt associated with ingratitude and a lack of excitement about one’s pregnancy (Tate, 2020).
At this point, most of us feel as though we are primarily responsible for our own health exclusively. While we may be taking precautions as a means to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to those around us, pregnant women are responsible for not only one, but two (or more) lives simultaneously. Pandemic pregnancy certainly deserves an acknowledgement, in conjunction with furthered support for women who are experiencing particularly difficult circumstances. Moreover, it deserves mention that access to healthcare and other resources is far from universal, as economic status, race, and sexual orientation continue to be factors that either favour or fail individuals in different parts of the world. According to the World Health Organization, only 64% of women globally have access to antenatal (prenatal) care four or more times throughout pregnancy. They note that antenatal care is “a critical opportunity for health providers to deliver care, support and information to pregnant women” (2016). A significant component of antenatal care is educating expectant mothers on disease prevention, which has never been more important. These resources should be equally accessible for women all over the world during the COVID-19 crisis, so that all mothers may receive appropriate care, information and support according to their unique needs and circumstances.
With indication that several vaccines are on the way, now is not the time to lose hope. Babies born in 2020 and 2021 will be the recipients of a special sort of love and appreciation, only to be understood by those who experienced these especially uncertain days.
Canada, P. H. A. of. (2019, October 22). Government of Canada. Canada.ca. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/healthy-pregnancy/healthy-pregnancy-guide.html.
If You Are Pregnant, Breastfeeding, or Caring for Young Children. (2020). Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/pregnancy-breastfeeding.html.
Tate, A. S. (2020, July 27). COVID-19 pandemic leaves pregnant women feeling lonely, 'invisible'. TODAY.com. Available from: https://www.today.com/parents/pregnant-women-covid-19-pandemic-feel-lonely-anxious-t187828.