What’s it like giving birth in a pandemic? New mums reveal ALL
What happens when a pandemic isn’t part of the birth plan? We asked five mums to share their experience of giving birth in a pandemic, and trust us - it’s not as scary as you might think.
PPE, face masks and uncertainty aren’t usually top of the list when women decide on their birth plan, but thanks to the pandemic, they’ve become the go-to option. For many women, giving birth can be an overwhelming experience, and throw in the added anxiety of a pandemic, and it’s no surprise that many new mums feel apprehensive about what should be an exciting time. Yet whilst tighter lockdown restrictions have forced the birth experience to be different, it isn’t something to be afraid of. We asked five women to share the highs and lows of giving birth in a pandemic - and trust us, it’s not as scary as you’d think.
Read the mum’s experiences and advice below, as well as their tips on hospital bag essentials that you won’t find on Google.
“I spent countless nights worrying about the birth and it was completely unnecessary” - Sophia
No one can predict the birth of their baby, but that doesn’t stop us trying. And thanks to the pandemic and NHS Trusts adapting guidelines, expectant mums can face more uncertainty about when and how they will give birth. For many women, this has created undue stress during pregnancy, as Sophia, a second-time mum who gave birth in April, explains.
"I spent countless nights worrying about the birth. But, in hindsight, it was completely unnecessary. The birth was absolutely fine. My partner was with me during the actual labour and apart from the midwife being in full PPE, it was the same experience as my first. I didn't even notice the midwife get all suited up, I was too preoccupied.”
Whilst Sophia experienced a birth similar to her first, she did notice the stricter visiting rules.
“After the birth I was moved to the ward and that was weird as my partner couldn't visit. I found the nights really tough with no sleep at all - it was like a Mexican wave of screaming babies they would all set each other off - but the day was relaxed and I caught up on a bit of sleep".
Whilst the uncertainty of what to expect in a pandemic made Sophia anxious, she found it helped trying to focus on the little things that she could control.
"I packed and repacked my hospital bag. I'd recommend getting some extra bits in, like some more packs of breast pads and maternity pads - the high absorption ones - as you will use them and better to have too many than need your partner to dash out and get some, not that there is anything wrong with that but saves you the worry of running out!"
"Limit how much news you read about Covid" - Lisa
Lisa, whose second baby was born during the April peak, also had a hospital experience that was better than expected.
"I went into labour in the evening and once the midwife at the hospital was happy that I was in labour, my partner joined me. Unfortunately my contractions stopped and I had to stay overnight. Due to visitors not being permitted in the wards due to covid, I had to stay on my own. But the nurses and midwives were fantastic. I was looked after really well and my partner was allowed to rejoin me in the labour suite in the morning once my waters had broken. Then it was a straightforward delivery and we were not rushed at all. We were allowed to stay in our delivery room as long as needed, until we were ready to take our baby home."
Whilst it's understandable to feel anxious and want to try to read up about details of the pandemic, this isn’t always the best for calming nerves, as Lisa explains.
"Limit what news you read about covid. Yes it is a terrible virus, but for pregnant women and babies it seems our group is reasonably unaffected. Of course there are some who are but news wouldn't be news if they reported on all the many thousands who either haven't been affected or are mildly affected. Maternity units also seem to be doing a fantastic job at keeping everything relatively very normal."
“The midwives were always with you 100% when you needed it and would make you feel like you were the only one on the ward” - Leanne
Though many express concerns over the strain that Coronavirus is putting on our NHS, Leanne explains that this didn't affect the care she received and she felt perfectly safe.
“The midwives and nurses were amazing and you soon get used to them all wearing masks.”
“The one thing I would say is that you know the nurses and the midwives are busy but they never show it. They were always with you 100% when you needed it and would make it feel like you were the only person on the ward. I remember crying the first night because my daughter was in neonatal, I was in pain and exhausted and the midwife listened to me and told me just to rest, but if I needed anything, even just to cry at her in the middle of the night, just to buzz. Kindness like that really sticks with you.”
“Trust in our NHS” - Emma
Emma, who had her baby in August when lockdown measures were starting to ease, also couldn’t fault her care in hospital
"From beginning to end, the staff know you're going through a hard time. A lot of women and partners are feeling fraught due to restrictions and I felt the staff went above and beyond to try to support women on the ward, because partners weren't allowed long visits (2 hour slots at my hospital). Partners were allowed at the birth when I had my boy and for about 2 hours after and then could come back at their allotted time"
For Emma, trusting in the care she was receiving was important for calming nerves.
“Try to stay calm and focus on the positives,” she advises expectant mums. “Trust in our NHS as they offer an amazing service. You WILL get a lot of conflicting information, but pick from it what works for you and your babe during your time in hospital and soak up as much information as you can. Don't be afraid to stay in if you need to and ask for help (press your buzzer!)."
“You are stronger than you could ever imagine” - Becca
Becca from Newcastle was anxious about possibly going into labour without her husband during the first lockdown peak, but thankfully it wasn't the case.
At the time of writing, all Hospital Trusts allow a birth partner on the labour ward, though visiting restrictions on the postnatal wards very between Trusts. So, it's important to speak with your midwife and discuss any worries you might have.
However as Becca advises,"try not to worry about the things you can't control. You are stronger than you could ever imagine, and it will all fade into the background once you are holding your baby for the first time."
What to pack in a hospital bag? Our new mums share their tips
It’s probably the most important bag you’ll pack in your life - so no pressure. Aside from the obvious suggestions from a random Google search, our mums have some great suggestions for some extra hospital bag bits to make birth in a pandemic that bit easier:
Hospital bag essentials:
- Get extra breast pads and maternity pads.
It might be longer than a 4 week lockdown and with the run up to Christmas delivery could take a while. One mum suggested trying tena disposable pants as maternity pads are quite bulky and can slip in your underwear. Tena also come in black (need we say more?)
Breast pads (LOTS)
Keep your boobs dry and comfortable
Pack a phone charger with an extra long cable to reach you when you're in bed
Button down pyjamas and comfy bottoms
Flip flops for post delivery showering
It can get hot on the ward, even in winter
- Snacks, snacks and more snacks
It’s a lifesaver as babies cluster feed their little hearts out while your milk comes in
Something to make you feel human
When your babe is happy to be left it their cot and you finally get a few minutes to clean up on the ward, for example a small pot of cleansing balm or a hot cloth
Clear zipped bags
Pack your hospital bag contents in clear zipped bags or different branded bags to help whoever is rummaging to find things easily. PJs and nightclothes? Sainsbury's carrier bag! Phone charger and iPad? Tesco carrier bag! Baby nappies? Side pocket! It will help whoever is getting you that much needed snack to do it ASAP.
Did you give birth in a pandemic - how was it? And do you have anything to add to the hospital bag list? Let us know in the comments below.