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What It’s Like to Give Birth with COVID-19

  • The loneliness during pregnancy and childbirth in the pandemic has been exacerbated for some moms with COVID-19.
  • At hospitals, new COVID-19 policies have meant that moms-to-be couldn’t have their partners, doulas, and other support people by their side during childbirth.
  • A recent study has found that most babies born to people who had COVID-19 late in their pregnancies are largely healthy and well by the time they’re 6 to 8 weeks old.

Donna Molina was sick throughout most of her fourth pregnancy. Nausea was the norm after taking prenatal vitamins, and she threw up almost every day.

But, in late March, when the 32-year-old found herself with no sense of taste or smell after a week of headaches, body aches, and a stuffy nose, she knew something was wrong.

A test would soon confirm her suspicion of COVID-19.

Things went downhill — fast. She was rushed to Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey with a 103°F fever, intubated, and induced into a coma for 11 days.

“When I woke up, I was very confused. I had forgotten I was pregnant, and I didn’t know which hospital I was in,” the New Jersey mom says. “A hospital psychiatrist explained that I had delivered a baby girl by emergency C-section at 30 weeks.”

The next day, she got to meet her 3-pound daughter, Harley, in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) via FaceTime.

Molina would not get to hold Harley until May 7 (more than a month after she was born), as she had to test negative for COVID-19 twice and recover from ongoing medical complications.

Despite the ordeal, Molina thinks of herself as lucky. She says she received tons of support from her care team.

According to a recent study, 61 percent of people who had babies during the pandemic feel they received inadequate support for childbirth.

It’s just one of the many ways childbirth has changed this year, especially for people who’ve received a diagnosis of COVID-19 during their pregnancies.

Going through pregnancy and childbirth alone

The threat of COVID-19, along with a lack of consistent guidance from health authorities, left hospitals and obstetric care providers to develop their own strategies for keeping expectant parents and healthcare workers safe.

Early in the pandemic, some providers switched to telehealth for prenatal visits and banned partners, friends, and family from accompanying patients to their in-person appointments.

At hospitals, new policies meant that moms-to-be couldn’t have their partners, doulas, and other support people at their side during childbirth.

That left many feeling alone and unsupported during their pregnancies this year, says Dr. Jennifer Conti, a San Francisco Bay Area-based OB-GYN and co-author of “The Vagina Book.”

“Every single element of that normal support structure is torn down,” she says. “Even the people you’d normally call on to be a support system in the postpartum period can’t be there because of restrictions on travel, stay-at-home orders, and the risk of COVID-19.”

The loneliness and isolation during pregnancy and childbirth in the pandemic have been exacerbated for some moms with COVID-19, such as Kate Glaser, a 32-year-old mom of three in upstate New York.

Kate Glaser had to wear a mask while delivering her daughter Isla. Photography courtesy of Kate Glaser

After she tested positive for the disease during her 39th week of pregnancy, Glaser was no longer allowed to go to her doctor’s office in person for check-ups, and was put on bed rest at home in quarantine. She felt like she had “the flu times 10.”

“It was very isolating,” she says. “I also worried if my husband could be in the delivery room with me. This is our last baby, so there was a lot of worry.”

Wearing a mask, she delivered healthy baby Isla a couple of weeks later with her husband by her side. She was still positive for COVID-19.

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