Words: Helen Brady
Becoming a parent is often described as one of the most exciting, beautiful, life changing experiences of someone’s life; terrifying, but in the best possible way. And that is when normal circumstances apply. Yet in current times, normal circumstances do not apply, and the impact of the COVID-19 crisis is adding a level of uncertainty into pregnancy that parents-to-be could not have planned for.
The global pandemic has meant a new ‘normal’ has had to be established in all walks of life, including across maternity wards up and down the country. Appointments have been reduced to the essentials required to stay safe, classes have gone online where appropriate, and new guidelines have been introduced around access and birthing partners in birthing facilities. In the UK, pregnant women have been grouped into the ‘vulnerable’ category, and official advice states that they should practice strict social distancing along with other stringent guidelines.
There are however a band of brilliant northern women and businesses that are providing advice, support, and most importantly, lending an ear to those that need it. They are creating forums to allow people to connect, offering reassurances that it is fine to be worried, and adapting their core business practices to adjust to the new climate.
Jemma Wootton is a registered massage therapist who usually specialises in pregnancy and postnatal massage. With Jemma’s own journey and experiences into motherhood underpinning everything she does, she is also an advocate for both physical and mental maternal health. She explained how she has pivoted her energies and business to adapt to the current climate, while continuing to offer support for as many new Mum’s and Mum’s-to-be as possible.
“I have created a Facebook community, Maternity and Wellbeing – North West, to support both pregnant ladies and new Mum’s during this time. There is so much negativity around the changes that have been put in place for giving birth and the restrictions on social interaction so I wanted to provide a place to drown out some of the noise and create a safe, calm and supportive platform to share knowledge, experience and positivity. The focus is on self-care and staying well, finding out about options for birth, keeping up to date with any changes to maternity services and sharing positive experiences with each other to boost morale and keep the amazing act of bringing a new human into the world at the centre of the conversation.”
It is important for online spaces such as the one Jemma has set up to exist, so that pregnant women and new parents know that their worries and concerns are valid, justified and completely normal. A nurse, and soon–to–be–Mum shared some of the main concerns pregnant women may be feeling,
“Anxieties may exist around attendance at maternity appointments and the risk of coming into contact with COVID-19. Also, what impact this may have on birth options such as home births. What if birthing partners have COVID-19 at the time of delivery or when leaving hospital? Not being able to access antenatal appointments and meet other expectant parents could also be another worry. (Although a lot of services are offering virtual appointments.)”
Concerns and worries can also continue once baby is born and everyone is back at home,
“Depending on how long this goes on for, this may mean that no family members or friends could meet the baby. As you need support and input from others around you at this time, how will this impact on the parents and the baby?”
Emma Cottam is one of the many business owners hoping to help ease these concerns. She is the editor of Positive Wellbeing Zine for Mums and the Host of Positive Wellbeing Podcast for Mums. She is also the owner of Isabella & Us, named after her two-year-old, and a full-time photography teacher. Emma explained,
“The Positive Wellbeing Zine for Mums is an independent magazine around motherhood, self-care and wellbeing, and is the perfect way to support Mum’s through this time. The magazine acts as a vehicle for helping Mums to make that time for them and to read something that is supportive, nourishing, and positive during this time. Issue 8 is due out in May 2020.”
Normally physically published quarterly, there will be a special digital-only edition of the magazine out in mid-May and there are over 35 episodes of the Positive Wellbeing for Mums Podcast available to listen to from the usual Podcast libraries.
Melissa Howard is a Strategic Intervention Coach with a focus on mindset perspective. She is supporting women in pregnancy during the COVID-19 crisis, but is also importantly looking beyond that, past the end of lockdown.
“My motivation is to help pregnant women in self-isolation overcome feelings of overwhelm, fear and loss of control. The long-term effects that self-isolation can have on a person could last for months and for some, years. Having supported a lot of Mums, regaining their sense if identity and instilling a routine of self-care and love is an area I am passionate about supporting.”
Melissa has launched a series of short courses for women to help them tune out of the noise, and back into themselves.
For official advice and guidance on Coronavirus and Pregnancy, please visit the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.