The increasing anxiety of pregnant women and mothers of young children during Covid times
There are a whole generation of ‘lockdown babies’ around the world who are spending their formative months and years in a form of social isolation.
Unlike their older counterparts, who were born and raised in a pre-pandemic world, many are growing up interacting with just their immediate family, and have barely been introduced to the wider world yet.
“My daughter is going to turn two in April and she hasn't even had the chance to meet so many of her own family members yet,” said Samishka Govender, who is one of countless mothers is dealing with the challenging task of caring for a baby during a global health crisis.
“On the very rare occasions that we have taken her to a social gathering, she screams and cries when she is around her own aunts, uncles and cousins, because she doesn’t know them. I fear that this will severely affect her social development.”
Govender explained that unlike when she gave birth and raised her son, who is now seven years old, her daughter will not have the experience of any early emotional contributions from her wider community.
“He was a very happy baby who was always around friends and family, and now he is socially adjusted and is able to get along with almost everyone he meets.
“We also got to take him out more, but because of Covid-19 and the lockdown, my daughter has only met a handful of people, and has been raised mostly at home by just me and her father.”
Govender is one of many South African mothers who are desperate for extended care for their children, but which are instead left mainly to their own devices for fear of being infected by the coronavirus.
As the nation commemorates Pregnancy Awareness Week this week, expectant mothers are facing their own challenges amid an uncertain future during these unprecedented times.
“I’m even scared to go to the gynaecologist because the doctor’s rooms and hospitals are so full of corona, and I don’t want to risk my unborn baby’s life or mine,” Megan Saivan, who is seven months pregnant, told The Saturday Star this week.
While widespread research from across the globe suggests that pregnant women and young children are not the face of the global health crisis, mothers are growing increasingly anxious about raising their children during a pandemic.
This month, the national health department acknowledged the struggles facing pregnant women and new mothers are facing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This year, Pregnancy Awareness Week takes place under the shroud of the Covid-19 pandemic, with soon-to-be mothers and new mothers unsurprisingly anxious about the effects contracting the virus, as well as vaccinating against it, may have on their newly-born or unborn children,” the department said.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that older and overweight pregnant women, as well as those who have pre-existing medical conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, seem to have an increased risk of developing severe Covid-19.
“When pregnant women develop severe disease, they also seem to more often require care in intensive care units than non-pregnant women of reproductive age,” the WHO said.
The WHO explained that pregnant women could be badly affected by some respiratory infections, such as the coronavirus, due to changes in their bodies and immune systems. “It is therefore important that they take precautions to protect themselves against Covid-19, and report possible symptoms to their health-care provider.”
Hospital company Mediclinic added that while there is currently no evidence to suggest that pregnant women are at higher risk of becoming infected with the coronavirus than the general population, they are more susceptible to infections.
But they are not necessarily prone to birthing complications if they test positive for Covid-19 while pregnant.
“It seems that there is no increased risk of miscarriage or having a baby with abnormalities. Mediclinic explained that while there have been some reported cases of vertical transmission – the virus passes from the mom to her foetus in utero, but it remains extremely rare.
“In addition, the newborn does not appear to be particularly sick if they do become infected,” Mediclinic said.
However, the hospital group warned that while there may be a higher risk of your baby being born prematurely, the research on this was not yet conclusive.
While all pregnant women can momentarily rely on non-pharmaceutical interventions, including social distancing, regular hand washing and wearing masks, to protect themselves from the virus, those mothers with young kids find themselves in a similar situation.
“We have been extremely careful from the day she came home,” said Charlene Naidu, whose daughter turns one in May.
“We order most things in, and limit interactions with anyone. She's only met a handful of people and we have also been very careful to fully clean up and sanitise before we touch her if we go out.”
While Meghan Lupton yearns for the day she can take her infant daughter out into the world without the fear of contracting the coronavirus.