pregnancy

"I am absolutely terrified": The reality of giving birth in 2020.

Every year, around 300,000 babies are born in Australia.

For women around the country, preparing for birth is an experience often marked by feelings of joy, anxiety, stress and anticipation.

But in the time of a global pandemic, the reality of preparing for and giving birth has never looked so different.

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Video via Mamamia

Typically, the weeks before giving birth are filled with time spent preparing, nesting and celebrating.

From baby showers and baby moons, to antenatal appointments and birthing classes, it’s a busy time.

But amid the outbreak of coronavirus, now officially known as COVID-19, preparing for birth as we know it has changed dramatically.

Birthing classes have been cancelled. Antenatal appointments have been moved online. And under social distancing regulations, baby showers are essentially banned.

READ: “It’s a scary and uncertain time.” 22 women share what it feels like to be pregnant right now.

In a time that’s already overwhelming, preparing for birth has become more difficult – both logistically and psychologically.

As for birth itself, as the COVID-19 situation continues to change and evolve, hospitals around the world are introducing more restrictions and measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

In many hospitals across Australia, there are now new limits on the amount of visitors expectant and new mothers can have. There are also new regulations about support people, with some hospitals even preventing partners from attending antenatal appointments.

In countries including the United States and Germany, the measures are even stricter.

At New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center, all visitors – including partners – are currently prohibited from visiting those giving birth.

For pregnant Australian woman Mez, who is currently based in New York, it’s an incredibly daunting experience.

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Mez, who is five months pregnant, originally planned to travel back to Australia in mid-June with her American partner to prepare for her baby’s arrival.

Now, as the coronavirus outbreak continues, that hope is looking more and more unlikely.

“I am absolutely terrified,” the expectant mother told Mamamia.

“It’s my first pregnancy and I thought I would be giving birth at home in Sydney, with family and support. It has been a huge challenge to keep my body calm for the baby through all this upheaval and uncertainty.”

With the new strict rules implemented in New York hospitals, Mez is starting to worry about the prospect of giving birth to her first child without the support of her partner.

“The number one hospital in the state yesterday banned all visitors, including partners from being in the room with the women giving birth. We’re still really unsure about after birth but we think it’s likely he will not be allowed into the room at all while I’m admitted, and he will be seeing his daughter for the first time two days after her birth,” she said.

“Today we went for an important ultrasound and they were screening people at the entrance and wouldn’t allow partners into the imaging centre with the pregnant women,” she added.

“Giving birth during the virus outbreak is honestly a nightmare situation.”

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After hearing Mez’s story, we decided to reach out to women from around Australia who are preparing to or have just given birth to find out how the virus outbreak has affected their experience.

Here’s what they had to say.

Sarah

“I’m 35 weeks pregnant. I’ve had appointments cancelled and classes cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. I’m having a (medically necessary) C-section at Monash Hospital in Victoria and no one is allowed to come visit our baby when she is born.

“At the moment, there’s only one support person allowed in from the time we arrive for the birth. This could change but this means no grandparents-to-be, family or friends can visit for the entire length of our stay in hospital.

“I went in for decreased movements yesterday and my fiancé had to wait either downstairs or in the car. He wasn’t able to come in with me to see the midwife.”

Marina

“I’m 33 weeks pregnant. It’s a scary and uncertain time, especially for a first-time mum.

“My husband’s whole family lives interstate. The new border closures mean that we have no idea when his parents will be able to meet their grandchild.

“For our time in hospital, we have been told that we will be allowed a single visitor, which will obviously be my husband.”

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Alexandra

“I’m currently 21 weeks pregnant and I’m based in Launceston, Tasmania, where we just have the one hospital. I’ve been told to expect that a health professional with no experience in delivering babies might be the only option by the time I give birth.

“Most of my antenatal classes are cancelled and I’m not allowed to bring anyone to my scans.

“At the birth, we are only allowed one support person. It’s quite a scary time.”

Jamie

“I had my baby on March 16. Things certainly escalated while we were in hospital. We had limited visitors allowed in hospital – just two at a time. There were extra security measures entering the hospital as well. I was allowed just two support people in the delivery room – I just had my husband with me.

“While I was in hospital, my mum was caring for our three-year-old and she couldn’t buy him children’s Panadol or Ventolin.

Charlotte

“My induction was cancelled last week due to my husband showing signs of a cold. As much as I appreciate these precautions, it was devastating to a heavily pregnant hormonal woman. After getting clearance from a coronavirus testing centre, we were induced as planned a few days later.

“Once our gorgeous baby was born we were told no visitors for the duration of our stay in hospital. Only the one support person was allowed at the birth, who could then stay with me during my recovery at the hospital. We are also expected to restrict visitors when we return home and even if we have them, we are required to respect social distancing.

“The hospital were very strict with their policy and unfortunately received a lot of abuse over the phone and at reception from people wanting to see their loved ones. The hospital staff were incredible at upholding this policy and providing support to the patients during our time there.

“It is still sad to think though that our parents and grandparents will not be able to kiss the head of our newborn son.”

Beth

“I’m pregnant with my first child, expecting in the next two weeks. So far, none of my appointments have been cancelled but I have been advised not to bring anyone along to my appointments in future. My birthing classes were also cancelled last week.

“Screening measures on entry to the hospital are mandatory for everyone. Visitor restrictions also currently apply – only two per patient per day. I expect that this will change to no visitors at all as things progress.

“To me, this all seems very sensible and reasonable but I understand others would struggle with not being able to share this time with extended family and friends.”

Tash

“I’m 39 weeks pregnant. I am utilising a private midwifery group, so my appointments have been outside of the hospital setting. Their classes have now moved to being completely online. They will also look at doing Telehealth appointments or home visits where possible.

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“The hospitals they work with have requested only one support person present for labour/birth – which affects the use of doulas, birth photographers, and other family that were hoping to attend.”

Rachel

“I’m giving birth tomorrow morning at the Royal Hospital for Women in Randwick. This is my second baby and I have a 20-month-old at home.

“We can only have one visitor or support person and no children are allowed to visit. After the birth, they are letting women go home earlier than usual. All pre-consultations were done via phone and there were no face-to-face visits. There will also be no drop-in clinic at the hospital after the birth.”

Bianca

“I’m currently 32 weeks pregnant. It’s an anxious time. I’m worried about the unknown and I’m worried that restrictions will become tighter in hospital by the time baby is due in May. Currently, at the Melbourne hospital I will give birth at, you are only allowed one support person with you and you are not allowed any visitors. At the moment, your support person can come and go from the hospital, but it is encouraged that they remain at the hospital for the duration of your stay if possible.”

Amanda

“I am currently seven months pregnant with my second child. I have so many questions swirling around my head. Will the hospital have room for me when I go into labour? Will my partner be able to be in the labour ward with me? Will it be safe for my baby to go home with me? The uncertainty is very unnerving.

“I plan to give birth at a hospital in Victoria. I am still of the understanding that I can have a support person, my husband, with me during the birth. I don’t think I will be able to survive birth without him, especially considering the birth of my first child was very traumatic.

“At the moment, my obstetrician is offering video appointments for clients. I also see a psychologist fortnightly to manage my Anxiety Disorder, which has become inflamed due to pregnancy and now COVID-19. She has moved her appointments to video calls as well.”

*Names have been changed for privacy reasons.

Feature Image: Getty.

For more on COVID-19:

The Australian Government Department of Health advises that the only people who will be tested for COVID-19 are those with symptoms who have either returned from overseas in the past 14 days or been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days. 

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. 

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.


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