Having a Baby During COVID-19
Christine Sweeney, LICSW Program Manager, Parent Connection, BIDMC
OCTOBER 15, 2021
Having a baby is an exciting and life-changing experience that parents (especially first-time parents) look forward to with anticipation. For many soon-to-be parents, the impact of COVID-19 complicates this joyous event. You may have feelings of uncertainty, fatigue, and loss due to the inability to share the occasion with family, especially those who live abroad. You may also be experiencing conflict with family members who have different views on COVID-19 safety measures, including resistance to the vaccine or wearing a protective mask.
For any parent who becomes sick or tests positive for COVID-19, the fear and loss are compounded. It can be heartbreaking to isolate yourself from your baby, wear a mask and other protective gear, and do all that you can to try and prevent transmission of the virus to your newborn. There are no words that adequately describe that level of that anxiety. This scenario is likely far from the vision you had of the early weeks at home bonding with your newborn.
And yet, there is hope. We’ve learned a lot since March 2020. We know that masks, hand hygiene, and social distancing significantly reduce the transmission of COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines also offer substantial protection against becoming severely ill with COVID-19, not just to the pregnant/postpartum parent but potentially to your newborn. Evidence shows that your baby can benefit from your vaccination both prenatally and postpartum through your breastmilk, which is why the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine (SMFM) recommends COVID-19 vaccination for all pregnant and lactating individuals.
It is ok to feel anger, disappointment, and anxiety; these are all normal responses to an abnormal situation. It is ok to say “No” to well-meaning family, friends, and colleagues who wish to visit with you or the baby if you do not feel safe and comfortable. Set limits for those who are unwilling to change their behavior to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 or who are unwilling to take this virus seriously and its potential impact on your health and the health of your newborn. Find helpful information on The American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website.
We also suggest calling your pediatric practice before your baby arrives. Ask for their specific recommendations around COVID-19 precautions during the newborn period. If they have written guidelines that you can share with family, that would be a great tool to set expectations and make a conversation that much easier. It’s essential to keep these protections top of mind as we continue to live with COVID-19 and prepare for flu season as well. These same precautions are highly effective for both viruses. Remember: these infection prevention steps are not about politics; they are about public health and, most importantly, the health of your family.