Pearl Adeyemi is pregnant with her second child, but her feeling is not the same as when she was pregnant with her first child about three years ago.
That time, except for the usual sickness associated with pregnancy such as nausea and vomiting, she was happy and expectant of the birth of her newborn baby.
But the feeling is different now, and she has attributed it to the coronavirus pandemic.
About 15 weeks into the pregnancy, rather than feeling excited, Pearl said she had rather been feeling anxious and fearful, even though her husband has always tried to calm her down.
Many things are on the mind of the 32-year-old bank worker during this period, and it’s only if the COVID-19 pandemic ends anytime soon that she might be able to free her mind of all her worries.
Among what is making the Lagos-based Osun State indigene worry is how to receive antenatal care amid the rising cases of the coronavirus.
“I don’t think it’s safe to visit the hospital these days. It bothers me a lot. Many hospital patients might be asymptomatic and it’s possible for them to infect others.
“Recently, when I visited a hospital at Ikeja, I noticed patients with flu. It made me to be scared; you can’t be sure who is carrying the coronavirus, especially if the person is asymptomatic,” Pearl told our correspondent during a chat.
Her husband, Samson, also expressed similar fears when he spoke with Saturday PUNCH. He said they had decided to minimise visiting the hospital until the delivery period was near.
He said, “We took the necessary precautions the last time we visited the hospital for a checkup. We wore face masks and hand gloves; we also ensured that we washed our hands before and after entering the hospital premises. The medical staff also showed a great sense of precaution. Despite all these, it is normal to be worried during these times.
“I have told my wife she might not be going for antenatal care until the COVID-19 situation subsides. God forbid that she has a serious ailment; if not, she will be taking the necessary pregnancy drugs at home and she’s not going anywhere.”
Samson, a computer programmer at one of the Information Technology firms at Victoria Island, said the COVID-19 pandemic made his wife, in particular, not to be too excited unlike when she had her first pregnancy.
“She is praying that the pandemic ends before her delivery. There is this fear in her that hospital is one of the places one can contract the coronavirus. I think it’s true but I’ve been trying to calm her down. At least, the medical staff at the hospital were strictly observing all the necessary precautions. Apart from that, pregnancies are still being delivered safely at hospitals across the world,” he added.
Another pregnant mother who lives in the Arepo area of Ogun State, simply identified as Rhoda, said she had not been feeling joyful the way she should.
She also expressed feelings of anxiety, fear and uncertainty when she spoke to our correspondent on Tuesday because of the coronavirus.
She said, “The hospital I used for antenatal care during my previous pregnancy is not doing enough. The last time I took my 10-month-old daughter to the hospital for vaccination, everywhere was crowded; there was no social distancing.
“Although the hospital placed water and soap outside for washing of hands, they were not conspicuous enough and most visitors had entered the reception before noticing the soap and water.
“The vaccination room was crowded and only one nurse attended to all the children who were to be vaccinated. The nurse wore hand gloves but she didn’t wear face masks while interacting with parents who brought their children for vaccination.
“I would have thought they would allow only a few people inside the vaccination room at once but the whole place was just rowdy and everyone was sweating. The situation made me feel fearful because if someone had the coronavirus, they might spread it to all of us.”
Rhoda said since the last time she visited the hospital, she had decided to stay at home until she needed urgent medical attention.
Pregnancy is usually a period of excitement, joy and anticipation for many expectant mothers. From the day a woman finds out she is pregnant, she and her partner start to become ecstatic, hoping to see the arrival of their newborn baby after about 40 weeks, all things being equal.
But in these coronavirus times, fear, anxiety, stress and uncertainty are clouding this otherwise happy time for many expectant mothers.
Experts said this was not surprising, considering the fact that COVID-19 cases were still increasing and the resulting emotional stress.
However, medical experts have recommended some tips for pregnant women to cope with these trying times.
A medical expert and author based in the US, Betsy Howard, advised pregnant women not to spend all day on the Internet, saying there was evidence that extended time on social media and news sites could increase anxiety and despair.
She said, “Limiting online immersion is sound practice for any time, but it’s especially relevant if you’re pregnant and anxious. Somehow, it seems if we can just find enough data, we will be able to set our hearts and minds at rest. False. You may find good news, but you will also find plenty of ominous news.
“We must accept that no one knows the future; no one knows exactly how COVID-19 affects pregnant women and babies, and no one knows what the situation will be the day you go into labour.
“Instead of refreshing news sites and googling medical studies, go for a walk in the sunshine while listening to music. Read a novel. Cook a meal. Embrace the finitude of your knowledge, and do your best to live in the present.”
An obstetrician and gynaecologist at the UT Southwestern Medical Centre, US, Dr Robyn Horsager-Boehrer, said the centre had observed a rise in the number of patients who had reported more anxiety about pregnancy due to the coronavirus.
“They are worried about how the virus might affect their pregnancy, delivery, or their family’s health,” she said.
Horsager-Boehrer said being mindful could help pregnant women navigate these trying times.
“Relax your body by practising breathing exercises such as stretching, meditating, or engaging in mindful movements. Mindful movements include slow, intentional activity such as walking, yoga, or exercise.
“Practise simple mindfulness techniques, such as a breathing exercise – for example, a technique called ‘4-7-8.’ This technique involves sitting comfortably with good posture and counting with the ‘in breath’ to four, holding your breath to a count of seven, and exhaling to a count of eight. Do this four times and breathe normally, practising as needed,” she wrote on utswmed.org.
Horsager-Boehrer added that mindfulness had been found to help relieve anxiety, depression, and stress during and after pregnancy.
A midwife based in Lagos, Mrs Bolanle Oyatomi, advised pregnant women to eat a healthy diet during this period.
“I would advise pregnant women to stick to a healthy diet, especially fruits, vegetables, and lots of water to drink.
“Then, pregnant women should avoid alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and other drugs,” she said.
Oyatomi said at this period, pregnant women, in particular, and everyone, in general, should eat foods that could boost the immune system.
She said such foods include lean meat, seafood, milk, whole grains, beans, oranges, tomatoes, nuts, avocados, sweet potatoes and green leafy vegetables.
To cope with the stress associated with the pandemic, Horsager-Boehrer also suggested that pregnant women should get enough sleep.
She said sleep had the ability to reset the body and mind, support the immune system and mental health.
“Pregnant women need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. They should establish a good sleep routine to help achieve this goal. This is by going to bed at a consistent time every day, even on the weekends; avoiding caffeine a few hours before bed; and shutting off devices at least two hours before going to bed,” she said.
Furthermore, Horsager-Boehrer advised pregnant women to physically isolate but stay social.
She stated that human connection could help reduce anxiety, depression, boredom and loneliness.
She said, “Though we can’t physically be with our loved ones right now, we can connect in other ways. Consider using video-chat platforms to visit your loved ones during this pandemic.
“Seeing one another’s faces can be reassuring and calming. Text and talk on the phone with a supportive family member or friend regularly and use the time to brighten each other’s day or to share your concerns.
“Virtual social groups are booming as well. You might enjoy a hobby- or fitness-focused online group that offers fun ideas to craft or work out indoors.”
Horsager-Boehrer, however, advised being cautious when getting medical advice online.
“Social media influencers are often paid to endorse products and services they don’t use or know enough about, which could potentially be detrimental to your pregnancy.
“Managing stress is important for any pregnant patient, and that’s especially true during the pandemic,” she added.
For pregnant women whose delivery might happen during this period, the President of the International Confederation of Midwives, Franka Cadée, said when they were delivered of their babies, they should stick to just their family and not ask for visitors right now. Cadée also advised pregnant women not to panic during this period.
“As far as the research shows, pregnant women are not at a higher risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus than any other group of people,” she told unicef.org.
Cadée further stated that due to changes in their bodies and immune systems, pregnant women in the last months of pregnancy could be badly affected by some respiratory infections.
She, therefore, asked them to take the following precautions.
She said, “Avoid contact with anyone displaying symptoms of the COVID-19; avoid public transport when possible; work from home, where possible; avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces, particularly in closed or confined spaces; avoid physical gatherings with friends and family.
“Use telephone, texting or online services to contact your midwife, obstetrician and other essential services.”
Cadée also advised pregnant women to take protective measures such as frequent handwashing with soap and water, regular cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces at home, self-monitoring of any signs or symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and seeking early care from a health care provider.