COVID-19 leaves new mums feeling alone

COURTNEY THOMAS

New mums and mums-to-be around Australia have been left feeling anxious and lonely due to ongoing social distancing measures put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Chelsea Griffin Midwife

The ongoing nature of the coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of anxiety among pregnant women and new mothers. Photo: Courtesy Gold Coast Private Hospital

 

While some states and territories maintain eased restrictions, Victoria remains under strict stage four restrictions in an attempt to control the state’s second wave of infections.

These restrictions have been in place since August 2, and are not expected to lift until September 13.

The ongoing uncertainty created by the continued presence of COVID-19 has led new parents to have fears about the unknown effects the virus might have on their newborns if they were to contract it.

Obstetrician and Australian Medical Association Federal Councillor, Professor Steve Robson, said it was important for women to understand that COVID-19 research was limited.

“Our knowledge of the infection is still in its early stages,” Dr Robson said.

“At the moment it seems that babies infected with coronavirus, whether they acquire the virus in utero or after birth, seem to recover well,” he said.

“Mums-to-be, new mums, and their families have every right to expect a wonderful birth.”

Dr Robson said the virus has put a strain on everyone, but said the community was adjusting.

“Let’s try to appreciate the stresses and disappointments but focus on how to inject some magic and joy into the experience as best we can,” Dr Robson said.

Zoe Atterbury and baby Elvis

New mum Zoe Atterbury is fearful for baby Elvis’ health and wellbeing as under Melbourne’s strict lockdown conditions. Photo: Courtesy Zoe Atterbury

 

New mum Zoe Atterbury said it was difficult being pregnant with her first child in Melbourne during the first round of coronavirus-related restrictions.

“When we first got pregnant, we had no idea there was going to be a global pandemic,” Ms Atterbury said.

“If we had known what was going to happen, we would have done things differently,” she said.

“Me and my partner were saying that if we had known the borders were going to shut for so long, and that I wasn’t going to be able to see my family in Queensland, we probably would have moved up there before he was born.”

Ms Atterbury said when Melbourne went into lockdown the first time around she felt guilty when she approached busy doctors over concerns for her newborn baby’s health.

“It’s hard being a first-time mum during a pandemic because I just wanted to know that he was okay as I’m obviously not a doctor,” she said.

Ms Atterbury said she was now also concerned her baby was going to miss out on important milestones, like socialising with other babies or meeting her family and friends in Queensland.

Helen Parker, the founder and CEO of The Babes Project, a non-for-profit organisation providing prenatal support to vulnerable women, said there was a lot of anxiety among pregnant women at the moment.

“It is really important to not just say to women who are pregnant or in the early stages of parenting ‘well, women have been doing this for years and I did it’, or just saying they’ll cope,” Ms Parker said.

“We actually need to be very mindful about how we are supporting women in the perinatal period,” she said.

“They are in a really vulnerable state where they are going to be exhausted or they may not have family who are able to pop in.

“We need to be aware that when women reach out we need to listen and be available.”

Shardae Read and Owen

Shardae Read (left) and her husband, Peter, enjoyed the birth of their baby boy Owen, after a lonely pregnancy. Photo: Courtesy Shardae Read

 

Gold Coast mum Shardae Read, who gave birth to her second child, Owen, in July, said her pregnancy hadn’t been easy due to lockdown restrictions introduced earlier this year.

“Just overall it was a much more stressful and anxious pregnancy,” Ms Read said.

“I wasn’t allowed to have my husband come with me to my obstetrician appointments, which was really hard because he was with me throughout every single scan with my first child,” she said.

“I felt like it was a missed experience compared to the first time and it took away some of those special moments in a way.”

Although states and territories across the country differ with current lockdown laws and restrictions, it seems that collectively, mums and mums-to-be are anxious about the general health and well-being of their children during the pandemic.

Ms Read said she continued to have fears for her baby’s future, and said the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Victoria and NSW made her worried about the possibility of a second wave in Queensland, and the risks that would pose to Owen.

“Especially now that there has been an outbreak in Victoria, I worry that we will have a second wave and that we are going to have a lot more cases,” she said.

“They are so little [newborns] and so you worry.”

Gold Coast Private Hospital maternity services manager Judy Ross said mothers were extremely stressed about contracting COVID-19 when lockdown laws were initially introduced.

“We would ring them from 32 weeks to just check in and reassure them that we are here,” Ms Ross said.

“I think in some ways, I felt a little bit sad for them,” she said.

“It is a very happy joyful time, and exciting, especially being able to show your new baby to your sisters, parents and in-laws.”

“I think that excitement was taken away for a lot of them, which is quite sad.”

Natalie Van Zyl and Maya

Natalie Van Zyl wants to keep her newborn, Maya, safe while the risk of COVID-19 remains a reality. Photo: Courtesy Natalie Van Zyl/Little Orange Photography

 

Gold Coast resident Natalie Van Zyl, who has recently given birth to her third child, Maya, said she was anxious when COVID-19 numbers started rising in Queensland.

Ms Van Zyl said it was difficult to get medical appointments for scans and blood tests because even medical facilities were faced with restricted opening hours.

“One of the biggest differences this time around was that simple appointments like blood tests and scans became tiresome tasks,” she said.

“I was working full-time and could only go after work, or I had to take time off, so it was tough logistically,” she said.

“Right now we’re hibernating like I’ve done with my last two children.”

“The recent increase in numbers in Victoria worries me and I have to check the news every day.”

Ms Van Zyl said she was worried that COVID-19 cases would rise again in Queensland.

“I want to venture out with her soon, but a part of me just wants to stay at home until it all blows over,” she said.

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