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UK-RES-2100547 March 2021.
7minRead
Everyone's Talking About

Me, myself and bump: working as a pregnant respiratory nurse during the pandemic

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They say it takes a village to raise a child, what do you do when your “village” is under COVID restrictions?

We live in a time when our care is so person centred – focusing on the holistic aspects of the person as a whole, taking into thoughts and wishes for a favourable outcome. But when COVID-19 hit, those considerations became restrictions. I never expected when I became pregnant I would feel so alone on my journey, despite having my husband, colleagues, family and friends.

Here’s some of my experiences being pregnant – and being a respiratory nurse – through the pandemic.

I remember getting ready for managing respiratory patients through the winter, amongst COVID. We start to see vaccines are being rolled out. As a front line worker we’re at the front of the queue to get the vaccine, and I have it booked for the following week. Reading the small print I notice ‘if you are pregnant or may be pregnant you cannot get the vaccine’ – which was the advice at the time.[1] Just to be safe, I take a pregnancy test – its positive.

This is when things change. Husband delighted with the news, of course.

My mum, – although we can laugh about it now – was devastated because at that time it meant I was now no longer able to receive the vaccine. Working in respiratory during this time was already high risk in her eyes despite the reassurances of Fit testing, PPE protection and protocols.

As I was very early on in my pregnancy when I found out, I had to share the news to a select few at work. I thought it best for the safety of me, bump and my team – who actually knew before my dad.

Risk assessments were carried out. No more Aerosol-generating procedures, no contact with known COVID patients. My first trimester was happening alongside a surge in the pandemic, and whilst people were commenting how well this time in my life seemed to suit me, they didn’t know the nausea and tiredness going on behind the scenes.

The risk assessment concluded that I was at risk and the safest thing to do would be work from home. I thought back to before I was pregnant, to the first surge. Even though we were all apprehensive of what we were dealing with, I was so thankful that I was able to come into work. To have a routine, interact and support my colleagues, even when a large portion of the population had to work from home or stay at home.

Getting used to working from home was a challenge for me. Several IT issues, crying because I couldn’t get Teams to work (I fully blame hormones), missing my colleagues and the routine. Routine is underrated but incredibly important.

I would not have managed without the support, kindness and dedication of my team members – or what I like to call my ‘respiratory family’. I felt so guilty at the start of my pregnancy, not being able to help the team as much as they had helped me the past year.

During my pregnancy, I of course got to experience the patient side of the NHS through the maternity services. I have known of a few friends and colleagues that have experienced pregnancy during the pandemic at different stages with different restrictions in place. Partners allowed in, partners not allowed in, waiting until active labour – a whole range of scenarios.

My husband was able to come to our first scan, then had to leave immediately. I was able to record the heartbeat at a midwife appointment as my husband wasn’t permitted to attend due to regulations. Thankfully as restrictions started to change, my husband could attend for appointments, meaning I didn’t feel so alone and overwhelmed.

During this pregnancy – for a lot of reasons – I have been very anxious and worried. I linked in with my GP and was referred for talk therapy in the spring and later started online cognitive behavioural therapy.

For me, it was about finding others in my circumstances. I remember talking through my worries with a fantastic midwife and her telling me about the maternity group sessions that took place pre-COVID, when you could talk with other parents to be. I tried an app on my phone to connect with people but it didn’t work out for me – it was like online dating at some points! Eventually, I found a lot of different people on social media platforms, which I found really informative.

I am still struggling with mindfulness and breathing techniques. My husband asks what music I want for the birth, and is suggesting we use those battery tea lights we never got to use for the wedding. I have to admire his enthusiasm!

When updated guidance came out around the COVID vaccine, we made the decision to get vaccinated.[1] Everyone should make their choice on an individual basis. For me, I waited until after my anomaly scan. Being classified as a key worker enabled me to receive my jab sooner than originally planned.

So, here we are a few weeks off the finish line.

Restrictions related to COVID are changing. At time of writing, some maternity services have reintroduced restrictions. I’m trying to be positive and plan what I can. My go-to mantra for me during this time has been: ‘whatever is the most appropriate method of transition from womb to world.’

For anyone reading this that is in a similar position or has been – as cliché as it sounds you aren’t on your own. Use social media platforms to gain knowledge and interact with people. Interrogate your midwifes and take notes at appointments. I even did a breast-feeding workshop via Zoom! Keep up the conversations with family and friends. Voice your concerns or worries.

This is a new approach and may not be ideal. But like the 21st century we have to evolve with it and bring our village with us.

Wishing you well in your journey.

Any advice given and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the view of Chiesi Limited (Chiesi).  All content in this article is for informational and educational purposes only.  Although Chiesi strives to always provide accurate information, it is not responsible for and does not verify for accuracy any of the information contained within.

[1] Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. COVID-19 vaccines, pregnancy and breastfeeding. 2021. Available at: https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/coronavirus-covid-19-pregnancy-and-womens-health/covid-19-vaccines-and-pregnancy/covid-19-vaccines-pregnancy-and-breastfeeding/ Accessed August 2021

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