Pandemic pregnancies prove stressful as COVID-19 questions remain unanswered

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Pandemic pregnancies prove stressful as COVID-19 questions remain unanswered
WATCH: Pregnant people face a plethora of unknowns as research on COVID-19 and pregnancy is in its early stages. – Mar 25, 2020

Being pregnant in a pandemic isn’t part of most expecting parents’ birth plans.

Cameo Rempel is 34 weeks pregnant with her first child, due in early May.

“This baby is going to come regardless of what global pandemic is happening,” Rempel told Global News.

The Saskatoon mother-to-be said the COVID-19 pandemic is a source of disappointment. She had to cancel her baby shower, and she worries her parents from Alberta won’t be able to visit the newborn.

“Especially being a first-time mom, I really wanted my parents to be able to be here to help,” she said.

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Rempel has tried to protect herself from the novel coronavirus by staying inside. She works from home, only leaving to go for walks, while her husband runs errands that require being in public.

“Health-wise, my biggest fear is that I’m going to come down with coronavirus right before labour and delivery and then [have to take] care of a newborn,” she said.
Cameo Rempel is expecting her first child in May. Global News / Skype

There are still plenty of unknowns about COVID-19.

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While research is ongoing, the World Health Organization says at this time, there isn’t any evidence that pregnant people have a higher risk for severe illness.

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It’s not yet known if the virus can be passed from mom to baby during pregnancy or delivery, but it hasn’t been found in amniotic fluid or breastmilk, according to the WHO.

“I’m trying not to panic yet and to hope that things will be a little more stabilized by the time this baby comes in May,” Rempel said. “If things haven’t been stabilizing, then I’m going to guess the three of us will just be hunkered down at home.”

Stress is one major health concern that can’t be avoided through social distancing, said Cathy LaFleche, the executive director of the Saskatoon Pregnancy Options Centre.

“I’ve never seen a situation like this where they’re so isolated,” she said.

“It’s so different right now for these new moms. We all had family and support and now social isolation or the social distancing is really going to make it hard for them.”

She’s heard concerns from families anxious about visiting hospitals, and others struggling to find necessary supplies, like formula.

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The Pregnancy Options Centre can drop off supplies to families in need, she said. It also offers peer support and prenatal education.

LaFleche recommended new or expecting mothers to take care of their mental health by staying, calling or video chatting with loved ones while social distancing.

“Having that baby at home with you, that might be the hardest, darkest days of your life, but reach out,” she said. “You will get through it.”

Family and friends can help those who are expecting by dropping off food or groceries while maintaining social distance, LaFleche said.

“It’s big enough to give birth, but to do it at this crisis in our time? Wow,” she said.

“These are absolute heroes and they need as much support from us as possible.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers across Canada are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. In Saskatchewan, international travellers are already required to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return to the province.

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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