‘A really frightening time to be pregnant’: Expectant parents anxious amid COVID-19 outbreak


For Lily Withycombe, pregnancy hasn't quite been how she'd pictured it would be.

Key points:

  • Many pregnant women are anxious about the Omicron outbreak
  • Obstetrician Steve Robson says pregnant women who contract COVID-19 are more likely to experience severe illness, stillbirths and pre-term births
  • Expectant mother Lily Withycombe has been in voluntary lockdown since December to protect her unborn child

She and her husband, Tim Goodwin, are expecting their first child — a baby girl — in just a few weeks.

"Last year when I first became pregnant, we were in the Canberra lockdown and I felt very safe because everyone was locked down and masked," she said.

"Since the new year has started, it's been a really frightening time to be pregnant."

The couple has been in self-imposed lockdown since early December, after their obstetrician warned a wave of Omicron was imminent.

They only leave their home for walks and a daily dose of caffeine, which Mr Goodwin orders from behind a mask and while keeping socially-distanced.

"Making the decision to isolate and be really careful really took a lot of the pressure off," Ms Withycombe said.

But it's meant the pair's life as expectant parents has been a far cry from what they'd imagined.

Expectant parents Lily and Tim say they have been in self-imposed lockdown since December.(ABC News: Dave Sciasci)

"We haven't been able to do many of the things we enjoy most," Mr Goodwin said.

"Going to the movies, for example, is something we would usually do every week, and that has stopped.

"So it has taken away part of the experience."

Ms Withycombe described a "spectrum of anxiety" about the risks of being pregnant amidst record-high COVID-19 case numbers in the ACT, and a variant that's showing no signs of slowing down.

"My first concern is that I might be a close contact and I might miss a critical medical appointment," she said.

"Then I'm concerned I might be a close contact at the wrong moment and I'll give birth in a COVID ward rather than a pregnancy ward.

"And then, at the end of the spectrum, I'm concerned I'll catch COVID myself."

LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic'A great deal of anxiety in Canberra's mums-to-be'

Obstetrician Dr Steve Robson said every pregnant woman who walked through his door echoed the same concerns as Ms Withycombe.

"I think we're seeing a great deal of anxiety in Canberra's mums-to-be at the moment, and for good reason," he said.

"If you're pregnant, you're not more likely to get COVID than anybody else, but you're more likely to experience severe illness if you get it.

"We also know that if a mum-to-be gets COVID, it increases the chance of adverse outcomes like stillbirth and growth restriction with the baby — that is, the baby not growing normally.

"There is also a marked increase in the risk of pre-term birth."

Canberra obstetrician Dr Steve Robson says the best protection for pregnant Canberrans during the outbreak is getting vaccinated, and receiving a booster shot.(ABC News: Dave Sciasci)

Dr Robson's best advice was for women with babies on the way to get vaccinated, and to limit the amount of time they spend in the community.

When out and about, they should be vigilant about social distancing and wearing a mask.

"But I think the most important thing to do is have the full course of vaccinations," Dr Robson said.

Evidence shows boosters are not only safe in pregnancy but reduce the risk of catching COVID-19 and prevent the likelihood of severe illness in the event a person does.

"We know for a woman who has had three vaccinations, if she gets the Omicron variant, her chance of ending up in hospital falls by 90 per cent," Dr Robson added.

Read more about COVID-19 vaccines:

As hard as it might be, keeping stress levels low while pregnant is also important.

The key in the current climate, Dr Robson said, was to seek out information from reliable sources.

"If you've got any concerns, make sure you see your midwife or doctor and talk them through," he said.

And focusing on the light — and the baby — at the end of the tunnel, just as Ms Withycombe is trying to do, will also help.

"I can't wait to meet her," she said.

"Despite all the worries and the anxieties that COVID brings, I'm still most of all so thrilled and so excited."

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news



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