pregnancy during coronavirus

Pregnancy During the Coronavirus Pandemic: The Emotional Rollercoaster and How to Cope With the New Reality

by Karina

Sadness. Stress. Anxiety. Fear. Insecurity. Depression. Whatever you’re feeling during these times of uncertainty, it’s completely understandable and OK. It isn’t the best of times seeing life as we know it is put on hold, and pregnancy during the coronavirus pandemic isn’t making things any easier.

You’re probably worried about your baby, yourself, your family, and scared of the unknown and all the uncertainty of the situation. But we’re living a reality that’s out of our control. So what can we do to make things better? Here are some of the most common struggles pregnant women face during the coronavirus pandemic, and some of the best ways to cope with them.

News overexposure

Whenever something of this magnitude happens in the world, we all turn to the news and social media for information. We feel the need to be connected to what’s going on, so we end up watching the news all day and constantly checking social media for updates and additional information. Any conversation that we have either starts with or eventually reaches the topic.

Following the news and reading everything coronavirus-related that you come across will give you a false sense of control, but knowing the exact number of cases in your city or state or the latest conspiracy theory won’t make you more in charge of the situation. It will, however, keep your brain continuously wired to the pandemic, rolling all this negative information and feelings in the back of your mind.

The effect:

It’s important to acknowledge the emotions you’re experiencing and understand that following news and social media non-stop is not helping you feel better. It has the opposite effect, since most news out there is negative, and few media outlets focus on the positives of the situation (people who have recovered, environmental benefits that resulted from large cities being under lockdown, etc.). It’s not doing the baby any good either, as she can sense your stress and feelings too – all the more reason to do your best to escape the negative reality and surround yourself with good things, uplifting people, and happy thoughts.

How to cope:

1. Limit media exposure

Try to limit media exposure to 15 to 30 minutes daily, and only check reputable sources. The internet abounds in fake news and all kinds of “experts” having an opinion about the situation and offering predictions that, at this point, are just that – predictions. As nerve-wracking as it may sound, nobody knows how the situation will evolve or how long it will all last, but one thing’s for sure – this too shall pass. Limiting media exposure won’t be effective if all you do is think about it or debate the current situation with family or friends. If you have relatives that insist on keeping you up to date with all the news about the coronavirus, tell them respectfully that you choose to limit your media intake and don’t want to discuss it anymore, but are available to talk about more positive things.

2. Focus on the good

Look for the positives of the situation and fend off of negativity. The truth is bad news sells. And since we’re facing a situation that requires a significant number of people following strict rules and regulations, focusing on the negative is a way of controlling the masses and making people more aware of the situation. However, if you’re already at home, in self-isolation, and very much aware of the seriousness of the virus, why not try to look at things differently and see some of the good that comes out of all this? Because no matter how serious a situation, there’s always something positive that will eventually come out of it, something to learn or be grateful for.

Here are some great sources for a more grounded and uplifting approach:

3. Find more uplifting alternatives to pass the time

Remember all those things you planned to do during pregnancy and never found the time? I’m sure they didn’t all involve going out or socializing, so why not take advantage of these days as much as you can before the baby comes? Whether it’s nesting, online shopping for all baby things, reading parenting books, taking an online parenting class, or just watching a Netflix show, there are lots of alternatives for spending the time.

4. Practice gratitude

Gratitude is something that has helped me a lot, not just during these times, but over the past years that I’ve practiced it too. I’m a firm believer in the idea that we attract what we believe, and focusing on all the things that you don’t have or your current limitations won’t in any way have a positive effect on your emotional wellbeing. By practicing gratitude, we get to look for the good on any given day and acknowledge it. In time, it will rewire our brain to focus on the positive things going on in our life. No matter how tough things are, there’s always something good in our lives.

Let’s take the coronavirus pandemic, for example. Some of the things that I’m grateful for during these times are my health, my family’s health, being able to work from home together with my husband, spending more time together, enjoying the warm weather, and a good book on the balcony, and the list goes on. There’s always good in the world, everywhere you look. So why not make a habit out of it, and start by writing down three to five things you’re grateful for, every morning before you get out of bed.

Scared about how COVID-19 might affect your pregnancy

Between the lack of too much evidence on the effect of coronavirus on pregnant women and newborns and the tendency of news outlets to overdramatize and focus on the bad, it’s hard to keep calm and not worry about how catching the virus might affect your pregnancy, your health, and your baby’s.

How to cope:

Here are some trustworthy sources where you can get your information from:

  • CDC – here you can find information about pregnancy during the pandemic, the associated risks, and about breastfeeding if you have COVID-19.
  • WHO – This guide by the World Health Organization answers some of the most common questions pregnant women have about the new coronavirus, their pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding.
  • Harvard Medical School – The Harvard Health Publishing of the Harvard Medical School offers a comprehensive guide for pregnant women worried about the new coronavirus. According to their research, there’s no evidence being pregnant increases the risks of getting COVID-19 or developing more severe symptoms if infected.

Canceled plans

Pregnancy is such a wonderful time, and lots of moms-to-be couldn’t wait to show off their baby bump, enjoy get-togethers with friends, travel, or go on that much-awaited babymoon. But with the pandemic going on, most of those plans will remain just that – plans.

The effect:

There are many moms-to-be looking for comfort on different discussion groups, trying to make sense of what’s going on and decide what to cancel and what not. It’s ok to feel sad, to even grieve the dream and vision you had of your pregnancy. After all, I’m sure none of us imagined spending all or even part of their pregnancy at home, without being able to go shopping for baby stuff, take a walk in the park, or see family and friends. There are, however, ways to make these nine months memorable and not let them pass by.

How to cope: 

Once you process your emotions and accept that whatever you’re feeling is OK, you must look for ways to cope with the new reality and make the most out of your pregnancy under these circumstances. Here are some alternative solutions for canceled plans:

1. Baby bump show-off

To be honest, I was so excited for spring to come to buy cute maternity dresses and walk my baby bump in the park, at terraces, and to stores. That will likely not be the case anymore, but I found an alternative.

Once a week, I dress up and take baby bump photos that will make for great memories years from now, plus I can send them to family and friends asking to see my bump. There’s also a positive to this situation – you get to spend way less on maternity clothes, as you’re at home most of the time, wearing sweatpants or leggings and a t-shirt. Saving all those money that you would’ve otherwise spent on many unnecessary things will give you the chance to use them for something else.

2. Travel plans

Just because you can’t travel during your pregnancy, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy time with your partner and even get creative and organize a stay-at-home babymoon. Dress up and put together a picnic in the middle of the living room, plan a barbecue in the garden, or anything you both might enjoy doing together as a couple. Pull out all the photos you guys took from previous vacations and spend an evening together looking at them and reminiscing all those great times. 

3. Baby shower

Since having a baby shower involves several people getting together, it might be safest that you cancel it, at least in the traditional sense of it. This news has left so many soon-to-be mamas out there sad and disappointed, but what if I told you all is not lost?

Gather your closest friends and family on a Zoom video call and move the party online. I’m sure your friends are already thinking of it, but you can also talk to your husband or best friend and let them know you would still love a virtual baby shower, as you’d like to see everyone and feel their encouragement before the big day comes. It might not be the same as a traditional baby shower, but it can still be loads of fun. We’ve recently thrown a virtual party to a friend giving birth in May. We had everything delivered to her house – decorations, gifts, etc. Her husband helped us decorate one of the rooms in their apartment, we’ve sent her a slideshow with our best wishes for her and the baby and adapted some of the classic baby shower games to a version suitable for a remote party. She was so excited to see so many of us join the Zoom call, she got to open the presents in front of us, we played games, shared stories, had dinner over Zoom, and overall had a marvelous time.

Here’s a detailed guide on how to organize a virtual baby shower.

You could also plan a post-birth baby shower. By then, hopefully, the situation will have calmed down, and you’ll be able to have your family and close friends in the same room, meeting your baby.

4. The upside of self-distancing

As great as you get along with your family and friends, the moment you announce you’re pregnant, it usually becomes everyone’s pregnancy, and you’re bombarded with unwanted advice and unsolicited opinions. Since we now have to distance ourselves from people, we can also take a break from all this. So instead of feeling sorry for all the things you’re missing, think of the things you’re gaining – more time with your husband and baby bump, a more personal pregnancy experience, and more control over who you interact with, when, and for how long. 

Fewer doctor appointments

I have to admit this is probably the thing that’s been bothering me the most during the coronavirus self-distancing time. I was so used to having my husband with me at every doctor’s appointment, and the first time he wasn’t allowed to come in with me was the time we found out the gender of our baby. It’s a moment we’ll never get to relive, but he waited for me in the car, and we got to share the news after the appointment.

The effect:

During the following weeks or maybe months, some of your routine medical appointments might get canceled as well. That can be quite frustrating, but you can make sure your doctor is available on FaceTime or Whatsapp at any time, and maybe even discuss with them and set some appointments via phone.

How to cope:

Pay close attention to the evolution of your pregnancy and any unusual changes you may notice. Whenever something worries you, contact the doctor and make sure there’s nothing that needs closer monitoring or a doctor’s checkup.  

Also, discuss with the doctor in advance when you can see each other again, have a birth plan, and anything that might help calm you down, and have a sense of security.

Close family and friends not respecting self-isolation limits

I’ve heard so many mamas out there complaining about that one family member or friend that doesn’t think all that’s happening is a big deal and they don’t get why they can’t visit you or see the baby as soon as you give birth. They seem to be ignoring your wishes and keep insisting on stopping by.

How to cope:

Unfortunately, we can’t control other people’s take on the whole coronavirus situation, but what we can do is politely and calmly set clear boundaries and refuse to have these discussions over and over again. You can even say something like “I’m sorry, we had this conversation already, I know how you feel, but my decision remains the same. I no longer wish to talk about it, but I would be happy to talk about something else.”

Dear mama-to-be, let’s take it one day at a time, make the most out of these beautiful months, under the circumstances given, and be grateful for what we have.

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