When the world shut down in March 2020, I was 32 weeks pregnant with my third child. My doctor told me to start wearing a mask, I had two of my prenatal visits at home, and I was nervous that I would have to give birth without my partner. Everything was so new back then, but I was comforted by the fact that I was not the only person experiencing a pandemic pregnancy, and of course, knowing I was doing everything that I could to have a healthy pandemic pregnancy.
Thankfully, we now know more about COVID-19 and have prevention strategies in place, but it doesn’t take away the stress and anxiety of a pandemic pregnancy. In fact, an increasing number of studies are finding that pregnant and postpartum women are reporting high levels of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and post-traumatic stress during the COVID-19 pandemic – including both concerns about their health and that of the children.
The importance of prenatal care
Having anxious thoughts during pregnancy isn’t irrational, as pregnant women in the U.S. are increasingly experiencing adverse maternal and birth outcomes, particularly Black women. It’s important that women are supported early and throughout their care journey – including support for mother and child after birth.
Important tips for pregnant women during the pandemic and beyond
- Schedule a prenatal visit as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. This is the best thing you can do for you and your baby, as prenatal care reduces risk of complications. Write down any questions that you might have for your care provider so that you’re prepared for your appointment. Your care provider will also assist you in coming up with a birth plan.
- Keep up with prenatal appointments throughout your pregnancy. Your care provider will help you navigate proper exercise and nutrition, including any supplements that you should be taking. These appointments also help to reduce low birth weight and iron-deficiency anemia that can lead to premature birth. Keep yourself healthy at appointments by wearing a mask and washing your hands. Ask about telehealth appointments if you are hesitant to go into the office.
- Access the many programs and resources available for you that benefit you and your baby. There are a variety of programs that can help you get what you need for a successful pregnancy, continuing into the first years of your child’s life. Use the many community resources available, ask your health care team to assist in supporting your care coordination and utilize the opportunities for enhanced programs from your insurance provider. When you inquire, you may find you qualify for numerous programs, particularly if you’re experiencing difficult times.
- Once your baby is born, schedule a postpartum visit. It’s important to see a provider within one to three weeks after you’ve given birth to ensure that you are recovering properly, physically and emotionally. Let your provider know if you are experiencing any unusual symptoms or you do not feel like yourself.
- Check out everypregnancy.com, UnitedHealthcare’s new website for new and expectant moms. I recently visited this resource hub and found a lot of useful information that would have been helpful to me during my pregnancy. In addition to videos that walk you through each prenatal appointment, there is information on how to get prenatal vitamins, free diapers and how to access substance use support.
Pregnancy is a special and exciting time, and a pandemic should not put a damper on those feelings. Attending regular prenatal appointments will help ease some of the anxieties and catch early warning signs to ensure that you have the best outcomes for you and your baby.