The Highs and Low’s of a Lockdown Pregnancy
These are unprecedented times, as we’ve heard time and time again. So what’s it like to be pregnant during a pandemic?
As a first-time mum, I don’t have a ‘normal’ pregnancy to compare it to, but there are highs and lows which I imagine are specific to a lockdown pregnancy.
Here are my reflections and advice, from what I’ve learned so far.
Everyone assumes lockdown caused the pregnancy
You’ll get sick of hearing phrases such as ‘we know what you got up to in lockdown’ and ‘lockdown baby’ as if your lockdown pregnancy was purely a result of having nothing else to do. It’s annoying at best, insulting at worst because our pregnancy was very much planned, long before we’d even heard of Covid 19.
According to the Office of National Statistics, there were fewer babies born in 2020, in comparison to the same time period in 2019. So actually, factors such as job insecurity, and nervousness about pregnancy in a pandemic are having the opposite effect, despite all the wink-wink, nudge-nudge jokes about lockdown conceptions.
The lack of social interaction
Working from home, or being furloughed does make it easier if you aren’t ready to go public with your pregnancy. I’m not an advocate of keeping it secret until the ‘12 week mark’ but there are many reasons you may not want to tell your friends or colleagues.
If you are suffering from sickness, needing a wee every 20 minutes or possibly even a mid-afternoon nap; it’s much easier to do so when you’re not under the scrutiny of others.
On the other hand, there have been many times I wish I could have seen more people. Face to face interactions has been limited to my husband, my midwife and the sonographer.
Friends and family are missing out on seeing my bump progress and grow, and I feel sad that they are unable to experience feeling my baby kick with me.
I haven’t physically met any of my current colleagues as I’ve worked from home since March 2020 and the majority of them don’t know about my pregnancy. It doesn’t seem appropriate to bring it up in the middle of a virtual meeting, and they won’t see my ever-expanding person walking around the office. And antenatal classes don’t have the same appeal, without the chance of real-life coffee chats and gatherings.
Fear of missing out
You can’t help but fear that you are missing out on a ‘normal’ pregnancy. Whether you are a fan of them or not; baby showers and gender reveals are taking place over Zoom. Remote baby shower games just aren’t the same as guessing bump measurements or passing round nappies filled with melted chocolate bars – if this is your kind of baby shower, of course! I would have chosen a Prosecco afternoon tea gathering myself.
Neighbours will cross the road to avoid walking near you, rather than sharing in excited conversation about your news. Many medical appointments have turned into phone conversations, and tours of birth units are Zoom tours and so I feel a sense of dread that the first time I step into the delivery suite it will be for the actual event!
Gone are the days of visiting a baby store to test drive prams and see if they’ll fit in your car boot. Although, I would recommend John Lewis free virtual appointments instead; we spent a good hour with Nicky showing us a shortlist of prams that would suit our lifestyle.
There are changes to NHS care, but they are still there to help
If you’ve been pregnant before, you may notice some changes. My booking in appointment was completed over the phone, with a short face to face appointment for initial blood and urine checks. Fortunately, due to recent government changes, you are entitled to take another person with you to scans.
There are lots of other appointments, shared between the GP and midwife but these have also remained face to face because it’s quite challenging to measure blood pressure and bump remotely! Despite being covered in PPE, the NHS staff do still care about you and your pregnancy and seem to make extra effort to help you feel comfortable.
You won’t need to be the designated driver
You’ll most likely be asked how you’re finding the ‘not drinking’. If like me, you used to be partial to a bottomless brunch or a night of cocktails, you may think you’ll struggle when you have to give these a miss for a few months.
However, a lockdown pregnancy has made this much easier. When no one can go for bottomless brunch, you don’t feel as though you’re missing out. And as disappointed as I am that weddings and birthday parties aren’t happening, I also feel a sense of relief that I don’t have to be the designated driver or have a sober night on the dancefloor.
Your maternity wardrobe might not look how you expected
Maybe you had visions of cute maternity outfits to show off your bump whilst you enjoyed coffee dates and trips out? I’d certainly considered how I was going to dress my bump in my work clothes, and how much I’d need to buy. I needn’t have worried because I haven’t seen a work outfit since March 2020.
Instead, leggings and joggers have become daily staples and when it’s just head and shoulders showing on screen it doesn’t matter if that t-shirt is a smidge too tight.
So a positive is that at 24 weeks pregnant I’m yet to wear any maternity clothing. However, I’ve started buying some in preparation and that’s a minefield in itself. Remember when you could walk into a shop and try on clothes before you buy? Or get fitted properly for a bra? Well, I think I’m 6 maternity bras down and still haven’t found the right fit. Maternity clothing purchases have ranged from the outrageously snug, to the type of shapeless dress which may get you mistaken for a pop-up marquee.
There’s a never-ending sense of anxiety
It’s perfectly normal for anyone to be feeling anxious right now. We’re in a lockdown which fortunately has a roadmap to recovery, but the dates aren’t set in stone and reliant on passing certain milestones.
At the time of writing, pregnant women aren’t advised to have the coronavirus vaccine unless recommended by their GP because the risk of catching it would be greater.
Stories of new strains appear every day, as well as statistics about being more likely to end up in intensive care if you catch Covid 19 after 28 weeks of pregnancy. So additional pregnancy anxiety feels very real right now. Luckily you can now have a support bubble if you have a child under the age of 1, but it doesn’t mean that our baby is going to be able to meet all of its family for a while.
And don’t even get me started about the birth itself; I’m in complete avoidance mode. There are just too many things to worry about such as Covid tests, mask-wearing, partners missing births, or having restricted visiting times afterwards.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. You’re able to take more quiet moments to sit and enjoy pregnancy, without the busy social calendar to navigate through. Life is a lot slower-paced as there is less to do, and fewer places to go. I personally have the benefit of not having to spend 3 hours a day commuting to the office and worrying about getting a seat on the train.
The online community is a life-saver, whether it’s using forums to help relieve anxiety or social media groups for pregnant women and new mums to share their experiences of pregnancy in a pandemic.
Covid 19 isn’t going away for a while yet, so I plan to enjoy the rest of my pregnancy as much as I can and remain optimistic that we are a step closer to normality by the time our little one is ready to meet the world.
Stay up to date with Sarah’s journey by joining the HER communuty here.
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