How has pregnancy care changed after the pandemic?
Being pregnant can be an anxious experience at the best of times. Whether it’s your first baby or your fourth, you still might feel unsure or worried about the birth and the days that will follow.
Throw in a little global pandemic and it’s not suprising that those anxiety levels might be quite a bit higher. New Mums often lean on grandparents, sisters or friends for support; but when we’re not allowed to mix in each others homes, this is easier said than done.
I spoke to Newcastle-based doula Anna Tait and asked her some questions about coping with pregnancy at the strangest of times.
How might hospital/midwife appointments differ between now and pre-Covid?
It’s important to say that each trust will do things slightly differently so it’s always best to ask your midwife at your first appointment how they are currently doing things. The more information you have, the better! It may well be that you will have to go for your scan alone which lots of women find nervewracking. Some trusts are now allowing one person from your bubble to attend with you. Birth protocols might also be different and lots of trusts will ask that you only have a partner with you while you are in established labour. The staff will undoubtedly be sympathetic to women having to go through the first phase of labour either at home or alone in the hospital; so don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice from attending midwives.
What are your top tips for maintaining physical health in pregnancy at this time?
Safe exercises like walking, yoga and pre-natal Pilates can be so beneficial full stop never mind in pregnancy. Your body is going through so many changes and having a physical release can boost your endorphins and make you fitter and feel more balanced (for some). Always speak with your midwife/doctor before you take up or start doing a new form of exercise as you always want to be safe for yourself and baby too. Don’t be anxious about pregnancy exercise, there is lots of good information on the NHS website about what is and isn’t appropriate.
A healthy balanced diet and good gut health is very important in pregnancy. Try to nourish your body with healthy foods and stay hydrated.
In terms of the coronavirus; there is no evidence to suggest pregnant women are more likely to contract the virus and those who do usually experience very mild symptoms. You can find more information by checking out the NHS Start 4 Life page.
What are your top tips for good mental health in pregnancy?
Taking care of your mind during this period of your life is vital!
- A daily self-care dedication time. Some of you may feel that dedicating some time for yourself seems impossible due to the demands of life however, taking time out of your day to nourish yourself is so important for yourself, your mind, body, soul and baby. Some forms of self-care include: Having a warm bath, reading, watching a show/movie, cooking, ordering food, having a nap, exercise, a skincare routine and meditation.
- If you are feeling anxious and out of control; I recommend doing morning and evening affirmations and dedications. As you wake up before you reach for your device or rush to brush your teeth, sit or lie down and take deep breaths and internalize or vocally affirm yourself calming ideas for the day or for yourself in general. Some of mine are ‘You are exactly who you need to be, you are capable, you are brave and you will get through this journey.’ ‘I am everything my child/baby/children need, I am enough for me and them.’ ‘Today I will try to let go of all that is not within my control and focus on creating peace, happiness and comfort for myself and my wonderful baby.’ The reason I recommend doing this twice a day is that it can be easy to start your day on a positive note but sometimes life throws things at you that can overwhelm, dishearten or just be annoying. That’s why before you drift off it’s important to realign yourself spiritually and mentally to remind yourself that ‘ you did everything you could today.’
- Maintaining hobbies and interests is so important! Although it may be difficult to meet for a coffee morning or go out with your pals at the moment; maintaining an outlet to release tension, thoughts and knots is so important, especially in pregnancy. Some choose to dance,sing or paint. Others choose a workout or video call with friends/family. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert tapping into an outlet or hobby can be great for offloading any underlying thoughts, feelings and tension from within. Pregnancy can be so magical but can also be a difficult time for some. Maintaining some normality in your life like a hobby or starting something new to get you inspired can be refreshing for you and your baby.
Do you have any advice for women who are feeling anxious and need extra support?
Remember what you can control. We cannot control this virus, we cannot control the people around us and their thoughts and actions. We can only control ourselves and how we act and think. Remind yourself that if you are doing what is best for yourself and your body/baby then that is what you can control. You can control what you eat, how you react to a situation and you can control how you respond to this virus, by staying safe, clean, distanced and by wearing a mask unless medically exempt.
If you are not coping or having a bad day or a bad time in general please seek support. Whether this support is from a health professional or from a trusted friend/family member is totally up to you. Remember that people care for you and love you and want you to feel loved and safe. If you don’t have people around you who you can speak to or feel comfortable with there are many different groups/hotlines and people who can support you like prenatal and postnatal doulas. Doulas are not for the uber rich or the hippies. They are for anyone, any family or person who wants support and help during pregnancy, birth or postnatally. There are doulas who can support and signpost you throughout your pregnancy to help you feel at ease and more informed about your rights surrounding your pregnancy and birth.
Having a postnatal plan is so underrated and needs to be emphasized more. Birth plans are thrown about all the time and it can be so exciting to create a birth plan, but we all know that birth is unpredictable and having the plan is more to highlight your needs, wishes and hopes for your upcoming birth. So often women, families and people forget that the postnatal period can be just as difficult if not harder than some births and this is why a plan is so important. A plan doesn’t mean strict rules and routines but it allows you to plan for things like meals, social expectations like people coming to visit (obviously within your social bubble at the moment) and self care routines. Write one up with your partner and share it with anyone who will be in your support bubble.
Finally; don’t underestimate the power of making online connections with people in a similar situation to you. Familiarise yourself with helpful websites which give honest, balanced and practical advice.