Pregnancy in a pandemic

Mental Health

When Elsa found out she was pregnant in autumn 2019, she never could have predicted the additional set of challenges she’d face thanks to Covid-19. Here she shares the highs and lows of pregnancy in a pandemic, and raising a newborn in lockdown.

After getting married at the end of August 2019, I began my pregnancy journey in late September. I always knew the journey to motherhood would be an incredible experience that came with many challenges, but I can’t say I was prepared for the global pandemic in the middle of it.

“I struggled suddenly being on my own all the time. I felt I was drifting – my days had no routine”

When Covid-19 hit the UK, and pregnant women became a risk group, I was sent home from work. I was able to work from home for a few weeks before being furloughed. My husband, Ian, is a farmer, so he continued to work every day, and I was used to being in a busy office, so this was a major change for me. I struggled suddenly being on my own all the time. I felt I was drifting – my days had no routine. So I had to create my own timetables, and gradually settled into a pattern. In a way there were positives to being home so much, as it forced me to do nothing, just rest, and I think my body needed it.

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Elsa and her husband Ian

Up until the virus hit, Ian had come to all my appointments with me, but that was another thing that had to change. I did find going alone a little sad. It was also slightly alarming seeing everyone around me in PPE, but it’s something you get used to. The thing that I was very nervous about, was whether Ian would be able to come into the hospital with me for the birth. The morning I went into labour on 12 June, he drove me to the hospital, and was allowed in the building with me, but not to the birthing suite until I was in active labour.

I didn’t want to be alone in the suite, so the hospital staff said we could stay together walking round the waiting areas – we did this all day! Finally, around 6.30pm, I was far enough along in my labour for Ian to be allowed in. My labour went pretty smoothly (if a bit long!) and for a while I completely forgot about the pandemic. When Oscar was born in the early hours of the next morning, Ian was allowed to stay with us until mid-morning. This is something I am so thankful for – it was such a special thing to have our first morning together as a family.

When Oscar and I were moved to a ward later that day, Ian wasn’t able to come with us. I found this really hard – it felt so strange to be sitting on my own with our new baby. I just wanted Ian to be there with us.

Oscar is my first baby, so I don’t have another experience to compare it to, but our aftercare in the hospital seemed a little short-lived – although I completely understand why! The medical staff were all lovely, but my impression was that they wanted to do as many of Oscar’s check-ups as possible that day, so we could leave and not come back anytime soon.

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Elsa, husband Ian and baby Oscar

To be honest, I was pretty OK with that, as I just wanted to go home. But, in hindsight, it would have been good to have some time with people showing me how to look after a new baby. The antenatal courses we had been planning on doing had all been cancelled. We had done one class over Zoom, but that just covered labour, not the actual baby part… I was lucky though, as breastfeeding came pretty easily for me, and although it’s taking Oscar some time to get to sleeping, he is otherwise a very happy little baby!

I do feel that the virus has robbed me of some fairly key aspects of maternity leave. Having not been able to go to antenatal groups, or, to start with, any baby groups, I did feel quite isolated, and I worried (and still worry) about Oscar missing out on things.

We are fortunate to live near both sets of grandparents, and this has made me feel less lonely while Ian is at work. When the rules around the virus lifted, I was able to start taking Oscar to some baby classes, which he has loved. And it has been so nice for me to meet other mums. I started to feel less stressed taking Oscar out, although it is still quite hard work when I am on my own, and not able to let anyone hold him – you learn to do a lot of things one-handed!

With the second wave of lockdown, our little routine has pretty much disappeared. Oscar is now five months old, and really getting into everything. He was starting to be so inquisitive and engaging with all the classes and activities, which makes me feel so sad that it has all been taken away from him. He was especially loving swimming, and I really hope that when we are allowed back he won’t have lost his confidence in the water!

I don’t know if it’s harder being in lockdown with a baby than when I was pregnant, or just different. It is definitely more tiring – although pregnancy did make me pretty sleepy. But Oscar is my reason to get up and do things every day (and night), and for him, I know it is important to try to keep some sort of pattern to our days. One little support group I was taking Oscar to has been allowed to continue, so I am still taking him to this every other week. He can’t get near the other babies, but he is absolutely entranced just to be able to see other little people – and big people! It’s so good for me, too – we see family and friends over Zoom and Facetime, but there is nothing quite like seeing people in ‘real life’.

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Elsa

Despite the unexpected challenges, there have been some good things to come from life in lockdown. I have always loved where I live, but not being able to go out every day really makes you evaluate your home – having a happy ‘base’ has such a massive impact on your wellbeing. And I’ve definitely got a newfound appreciation for ours!

I also think lockdown has made me less materialistic; whereas before I might go out shopping for the day just for something to do, now we do all our shopping online, I only buy things I really need. That being said, I cannot wait to be able to go out and see people with Oscar – and for them to be able to have a cuddle! I don’t think we will be able to take Oscar to any of the Christmas fairs or Santa’s grottoes, but I still want his first Christmas to be a special one! The best present will be (hopefully) being able to see all our family.


Rav Sekhon | BA MA MBACP (Accred), says:

Elsa’s heart-warming story welcomes a new life into the world, in such uncertain times. This has brought an unexpected challenge to pregnancy and becoming a mother. However, the security that family and friends, and having a happy ‘base’, bring has been key. The uncertainty of the external world is less challenging when we have reliable positive influences in our lives, and this is something that Elsa has cultivated wonderfully.

You can read more about mental health whilst pregnant or after having given birth at counsellingdirectory.org.uk


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