Pregnant in a Pandemic
Life’s greatest moments—such as welcoming a newborn into the world—have continued on despite the pandemic.
Pregnant women are facing medical uncertainties, curbing their cravings while many of their favorite restaurants are closed, and giving birth in hospitals that are also caring for COVID-19 patients.
Nationally, anxiety and worries of an uncertain future is making moms think twice before having children. According to the CDC, the number of births have dropped one percent from last year’s figures.
However, here in Denver, Alana Zhu, a nurse at Denver Health in Labor and Delivery has seen a steady number of pregnant moms. She said: “The number of deliveries hasn’t changed. Babies come whenever they want! Moms are getting more education regarding COVID-19 during their pregnancy. And moms are tested for COVID-19—unless they decline—when they are admitted to the labor deck.”
A Healthy and Safe Pregnancy
Social distancing, staying home and washing hands are recommended for everyone, especially pregnant women.
As a nurse, Ruben Javier, whose wife gave birth on April 24, washed his hands religiously.
“I was washing my hands all the time,” he said. “If I touched something, I washed my hands after for at least 20 seconds.”
Not only are pregnant women and their partners being extra careful with handwashing, they are also avoiding contact with other people.
Lin Johnson shared her struggle with morning sickness. “I had all day and night sickness for the first five months of my pregnancy,” she said. “I was pretty much bed- or couch-ridden during that time, exhausted with no sleep and running to the sink every hour, so I was stuck at home with no visitors.”
With food cravings, Johnson said it was difficult to get to her favorite restaurants. “As a pregnant woman craving all sorts of foods, I was really sad when some of my favorite restaurants closed completely during quarantine.”
When COVID-19 hit Colorado, a pregnant Jessalyn Herreria Langevin and her husband Dan began working from home.
Langevin said: “Working from home has helped with social distancing as I have been too busy working to do much else. But I wonder if I’ve gained too much weight since my gym membership is on hold, my hips hurt during long walks, and I am frequently ravenous.”
Denver resident Lisa Nguyen, who gave birth on May 17, knew the added risks of being pregnant. “I practiced social distancing and wore a face mask every time I left the house as I knew my immune system was compromised from the pregnancy,” she said.
Nguyen’s doctor advised her to keep the stress levels down. “I, along with all other pregnant women had to worry about staying healthy for ourselves and protecting our babies,” said Nguyen, adding she had to prepare for the unexpected.
She continued, “Unfortunately, the health industry changed a lot of the rules at the hospital during the pandemic, such as only allowing one parent to be in the room during ultrasounds and various other tests.”
Lynda Saignaphone was 37 weeks pregnant when the Stay-At-Home order began on March 26 in Colorado.
“I had my doctor appointment on that same day. My partner accompanied me, but when we arrived he was not allowed to go in. The guideline was just put in place, so we didn’t get a notification,” said Saignaphone, who was screened for COVID-19 before entering the facility.
“My partner waited in the car and we used video conference for him to see the ultrasound. Since we are first time parents, the experience was hard. We were looking forward to that appointment to see the growth of our baby and share in the excitement.”
Langevin shared not only the same experience at her 21-week anatomy scan, but the same feelings of disappointment.
“This ultrasound typically shows detailed pictures of the baby’s hands, feet, face, among other important structures. It’s also the last ultrasound done in a normal pregnancy so I was disappointed he couldn’t be there with me.”
“I had to wear a mask and use hand sanitizer immediately upon entering the office. Everyone wore masks and they limited the amount of people in the room with me to one at a time. I wasn’t allowed to videotape my ultrasound but able to FaceTime my husband and take pictures home. Everyone’s trying to make the best of a bad situation, but the process felt sterile and lonely.”
The New Baby Showers
Javier and his wife, Liang, set their baby shower before stay-at home orders restricted gatherings. They felt fortunate to schedule it in their Northglenn residence.
Saignaphone was also able to host an in-person baby shower on February 29. She said, “It was co-ed baby shower with our friends and family joining us from all over the country. I’m so glad we were able to celebrate with our loved ones in person, which was the last time we got to see them before the pandemic and quarantine happened.”
However, Nguyen and Johnson were not so fortunate. In fact, Johnson and her husband had been trying to get pregnant for four years, so to celebrate with a baby shower would have marked this beautiful family moment.
Nguyen’s sister, cousin and three close friends hosted a virtual baby shower for her via Zoom. “They created beautiful gift baskets, which they hand-delivered to guests’ houses and mailed to out-of-state guests,” she said. “We played virtual games, and were able to celebrate with everyone online.”
Johnson confessed her distress when they canceled her baby shower, scheduled for the end of March. “I was devastated and cried for hours, knowing it was going to be cancelled.” She and her husband, Alex celebrated by hosting an at-home photo shoot. As a photographer herself, Johnson captured her maternity memories with photo booth props and making the best of the situation.
“I’m so glad we did that because it definitely made me feel better through it all,” Johnson said.
Preparing for Baby's Arrival
Langevin wonders what her delivery will look like when the baby is due this September.
“During my career in nursing, I have been fortunate enough to watch C-sections and vaginal deliveries,” she said.
“However, I worry that my husband won’t be allowed in the delivery room. Nursing schools frequently name their OB course Care of the Childbirthing Family because care is needed for the mother, her baby, and their support system. Is it the same joyful and happy experience if it’s just you and your new baby? As a whole, everything feels a little surreal and very uncertain.”
Johnson also indicated her disappointment to not have her mom and sister at the hospital for her baby’s birth. She also expressed her fears of contracting COVID-19; she is already encountering trouble breathing just being pregnant.
Historical Covid Times
Zhu said that things are changing daily in the hospital. “The only thing we can do is adapt to the changes and roll with the punches. I’m proud of the work I do and I’m grateful to be in a career where I’ll never worry about losing my job,” she said.
“Nursing is a special world to work in as you’re seeing people in their most vulnerable state. Every day I’m honored to be taking care of the Denver people!”
“This [pregnancy] was definitely one for the books,” said Nguyen, who also has a 12-year-old son Nathaniel and 8-year-old daughter Natalie.
“Times like these are never easy on anyone,” Javier said. “As long as we have each other, we will get through it, supporting one another.”
Johnson also said the love and support of her husband helped her during these pandemic times. “I couldn’t have gotten through it without my wonderful husband, Alex!”
One positive aspect of the current situation is that new mothers may be able to work from home. Saignaphone said, “Now that my maternity leave has ended, I get to work from home which eases my worries staying home with my baby and not having to worry about pumping and breastfeeding. I’m fortunate to have family and friends to lend their support through this unpredictable time.”