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Pregnancy during COVID-19 pandemic presents new challenges for Canada’s expectant mothers

Click to play video 'Pandemic pregnancies: The challenges for expectant parents' Pandemic pregnancies: The challenges for expectant parents
WATCH: Pregnancy is challenging enough during ordinary times, but how do you prepare for your child's birth in the middle of the pandemic? Ross Lord speaks with expectant moms about their unexpected challenges – Dec 22, 2020

Canada’s expectant mothers say they are juggling a wider range of challenges than ever in their pandemic pregnancies.

“We wanted to have a baby, but at the same time, it’s just like, ‘Do I want to bring it in this crazy world that’s going on right now?'” said Stacey VanTassell of Digby, Nova Scotia.

VanTassell and her partner, Tyler Harris, discovered during a gender reveal party on Sunday that they are having a boy.

Read more: Coronavirus: Pregnant and sick with COVID-19 — visiting a hospital during the 2nd wave

She says her pregnancy has been exciting, but also tough. Along with typical challenges like nausea, she’s felt stress over COVID-19 restrictions. Limits on the number of people at medical appointments have, at times, excluded her partner.

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He will be present for the birth of their son, but her mother won’t be.  “The hardest thing for me right now to wrap my head around is not being able to have my mother in the room with me,” VanTassell said.

Expectant mother Stacey VanTassell celebrates with partner, Tyler Harris, after discovering at a gender reveal party they are having a boy. Courtesy: Stacey VanTassell

In Vancouver, Fernanda Villalobos is 34 weeks pregnant with her first child.

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“We are both privileged that we have job security and we can both work from home,” Villalobos said. Like VanTassell, she also sees the upside of a pandemic pregnancy.

“I’ve really enjoyed being able to be with my husband, who’s home as well,” she said. “I think him witnessing all the changes, physical and emotional, has made us better partners.”

Read more: U.S. woman gives birth while in coronavirus coma: ‘She’s a fighter’

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Expectant mothers interviewed by Global News say staying in means less pressure to go out and pretend they’re feeling well when they’re not.

But as Nova Scotia mother-to-be Katie Ryerson is discovering, relaxing is a luxury.

“It’s the unknown about the rest of the pregnancy and what delivery’s going to look like,” Ryerson said. “And then the scary thing about, you know, what if I did get COVID? How’s that going to affect me and my baby?”

Expectant mother Katie Ryerson, with husband, Connor, after discovering at a gender reveal party their baby would be a girl. Courtesy: Katie Ryerson
Expectant mother Katie Ryerson, with husband, Connor, after discovering at a gender reveal party their baby would be a girl. Courtesy: Katie Ryerson.

Research shows (PDF) pregnant women are at higher risk of damaging outcomes if they get COVID-19. Further, the vaccine’s effect on pregnant and breastfeeding women is unclear.

Those anticipating a pandemic baby boom, from couples spending more time at home, might be in for a surprise.

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Click to play video 'New COVID-19 guidelines released for pregnant women, future moms' New COVID-19 guidelines released for pregnant women, future moms
New COVID-19 guidelines released for pregnant women, future moms – Dec 25, 2020

Evidence from the Brookings Institute in the United States suggests there could be a COVID baby bust — that job losses in devastated economies will lead to fewer births.

Those who didn’t shy away hope they will have profound memories during a difficult time.