How to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety During Pregnancy
By Madeleine Burry
Around the world, the rapid spread of the coronavirus and attempts to slow down the virus’s spread have led to dramatic shifts in day-to-day life and routines. Everyone feels uneasy by the news, not to mention the latest “social distancing” guidelines which require us to adopt self-isolation. These are stressful times. But for moms-to-be, there are additional concerns, too.
“Unfortunately, we just don’t know about the effects of coronavirus on those who are trying to get pregnant, stay pregnant or have young children at home,” says Brian Levine, M.D., an OB-GYN, founding partner and practice director of CCRM Fertility New York. Still, data from China and Western Europe indicate that babies with COVID-19 seem to do better compared to people in other age groups. And, pregnant women do not seem to be at higher risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms, according to experts and small early studies.
These are positive signs. But to be pregnant in the time of the coronavirus means postponing or cancelling baby showers, skipping labor and delivery classes, adjusting birth plans, ramping up hand-washing and stranger-avoidance and potentially dealing with a scarcity of supplies.
If you’re feeling freaked out, that’s normal, says Dr. Levine. But there are strategies you can put in place to turn down feelings of panic — we spoke to experts to get tips moms-to-be can put into practice during this unprecedented time.
How can pregnant women cope with coronavirus anxieties?
Take control of the situation
As concerns mount, here’s a comforting thought to keep in your mind: “This is one moment in time — not something that’s defining to you or your child’s life and journey,” says Julie Bindeman, Psy.D., of Integrative Therapy of Greater Washington. So while your birth plan may shift in ways that would have been unimaginable a few weeks ago, keep in mind that eventually, this stressful moment will have passed, says Bindeman.
Social distancing and limiting social contact are known, effective strategies, says Dr. Levine. And there’s no understating the importance of hand-washing, too. This may feel like a time when you have little control, but “our actions — and our inactions — are going to predict and protect what’s going to happen to our unborn children,” says Dr. Levine. Bottom line: Monitor and follow public health recommendations.
Reframe the situation
No one would choose to be pregnant — or delivering — during a pandemic. It’s particularly challenging because so much is unknown; you can’t turn to your parents or grandparents for advice on how they coped with a similar situation, points out Bindeman.
She encourages her patients to reframe the situation, and remember there are some positive aspects. For example, Wi-Fi, texting and video chat all make keeping in touch easy. “The thing we’re giving up is physical connection,” says Bindeman. “But we have all the tools to manage it.”
Some changes — such as new hospital limits on how many people can be present in the delivery room — can be unsettling. But remind yourself that all of this is being done for your health — and your baby’s. An obstetrician’s goal is always the same: safe mom, safe baby, says Dr. Levine. Coronavirus doesn’t change that.
Give yourself time and space feel your feelings
“I’m just so bummed out,” says one mom-to-be whose mid-April baby shower was canceled. Understandable! If you feel sad, frustrated or angry, accept the feelings, says Bindeman, noting that they’re absolutely legitimate. Give yourself a moment (or several) to vent to a friend or share with your partner and release the valve on your emotions.
Connect with friends and family
For many moms-to-be, baby showers are being cancelled and other happy celebrations and get-togethers are off. But there are still ways to stay in touch, says Bindeman. A video chat — using Skype, Zoom or FaceTime — is an opportunity to talk to friends, commiserate, laugh and share, Bindeman says. You can schedule meals and coffee breaks with friends, too, says Dr. Levine. He also recommends joining forums and online groups to keep in touch with like-minded people.
“But recognize that the Internet is really good for finding a movie but it’s not your doctor — if you have a medical question, ask your doctor,” he says.
Reach out to your doctor
You were probably already in good contact with your OB/GYN before the outbreak. Keep those lines of communication open now, since guidelines may shift from week to week or even day to day, says Bindeman. If you’re concerned about exposure to the coronavirus during doctor visits or while at the hospital, ask your OB/GYN what steps they’re taking and for their best guidance.
And if your OB/GYN recommends fewers appointments, don’t be alarmed. “We have some really cool tools in 2020,” notes Dr. Levine — including Bluetooth Wi-Fi scales and blood pressure cuffs, as well as urine dipsticks that can check for protein. In geographically remote areas, physicians have used these kinds of distance monitoring tools for years, he says. “Now is a time to get creative.”
Don’t take on unnecessary stress
Staying informed and knowing the latest news is essential, especially in this quick-moving situation. But scrolling through the same meme of the burning matches countless times is neither productive nor necessary.
“Set a time of day to look at the news,” advises Dr. Levine. Reading the news once a day is sufficient, he says. Bindeman recommends deleting Twitter and Facebook from your phone — that way, you can still engage with social media, but only through your computer, which takes a bit more effort and limits endless, tension-creating scrolling.
Seek out stress-busters
Nature, movies, mediation, at-home workouts. Now more than ever, turn to strategies that help reduce your stress. If you can (safely) get outside in nature, it can help you feel grounded, says Bindeman. She also recommends seeking out wellness-focused apps (such as for meditation or yoga) to help create the predictable, soothing routines that people crave. Also: “Seek out the memes! Seek out funny videos and the funny people in your life,” she says. Laugh-inducing moments will help boost your endorphins, and leave you feeling better afterward, she says.
Finally, keep in mind that this is a temporary situation, says Dr. Levine. “It’s an unprecedented event. The script is being written right now, but if we all play our role in protecting each other, we will get through this and be on the other side of it.”