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Pregnancy during a pandemic: An obstetrician’s tips and advice from new parents

Jessica and Tim pose with their twin boys

Since the global pandemic was declared in March, Dr. Jon Barrett, maternal fetal medicine specialist, has been seeing patients like Jessica Cheung and Tim Murray, who had twin boys on May 10, 2020.

“Families are of course concerned about being pregnant during the pandemic – for both themselves and their babies,” says Dr. Barrett. “While it’s stressful, there are effective steps like being vigilant with hand washing, wearing a mask when outside of your home and maintaining social distance to help keep your family safe.”

Dr. Barrett says pregnant women are not at increased risk for contracting COVID-19. In addition, information to date shows that pregnant women are no more likely than the general public to develop symptoms if infected with the new coronavirus. Data suggests symptoms are likely to be mild to moderate if the virus is contracted during pregnancy.

What if you are pregnant and do contract COVID-19? “While it’s true that most viruses can cross the placenta, babies born to women who had COVID-19 seem to do well,” adds Dr. Barrett.

“This doesn’t suggest women and their families should be less attentive during the pandemic – in fact, I suggest families take this very seriously,” says Dr. Barrett. “There is variation in how the virus affects each patient and I encourage women and their families to make a plan for staying safe during the pandemic.”

For Jessica, and her partner Tim, the pandemic drastically changed the last trimester of their pregnancy. The couple says going from having a lot of support from friends and family, to having very little, was rocky at first. “We looked out for each other and were on the same side. We put ‘us’ first,” says Jessica, who adds that Tim working from home was a big help, especially during her last trimester. “He would sometimes just glance at me, know I was completely exhausted, and take the lead with household chores so I could rest.”

On Mother’s Day, Jessica’s water broke and the couple welcomed Theo and Kai, born at 34 weeks and five days of pregnancy. After a short stay in Sunnybrook’s neonatal intensive care unit and then at Scarborough Health Network, the babies are now home and thriving.

Here are Jessica and Tim’s pandemic pregnancy tips:

 

Champion your mental health

Jessica and Tim meditated together regularly. Talking to each other, and a therapist when needed, about their highs and lows each day helped. Tim says they also tried to accept, early during the pandemic, that some things were out of their control.

Let go of expectations about pregnancy and childbirth

“There’s so much talk about pregnancy being this “glowing” experience…well, being pregnant isn’t always easy,” says Jessica. “And learning to breastfeed can be really hard. It was freeing to let go of these stereotypes and accept that this was our experience.”

Enjoy the quietness and lack of FOMO

Jessica and Tim have embraced the quietness of becoming parents during the pandemic. “There’s no hustle and bustle of people visiting, we have just hunkered down and enjoyed our babies,” says Tim. Jessica agrees, and laughs when she says she has embraced no-FOMO (fear of missing out) that has come with the pandemic. “There are zero thoughts like ‘oh, we could have been doing this, or traveling here’…it’s actually a great time to be raising babies.”

Accept help from friends and family

They advise those who are pregnant or have recently delivered babies to accept help without hesitation. “If people offer to bring food – don’t hesitate! Accept any help that is offered with open hands,” says Tim.


To learn more about pregnancy during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit check out additional advice from Dr. Jon Barrett, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Sunnybrook.

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Marie Sanderson

Marie Sanderson is a Senior Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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