From Moving Countries To Quitting Work: What It's Like Being Pregnant During The Pandemic

The global spread of coronavirus has seen fear and panic sky rocket in the community and for many pregnant women the feelings of anxiety can be even greater with the ongoing uncertainties around the virus and its impacts.

Despite teams globally working around the clock to research the new strain of the virus, much is still unknown about how Covid-19 impacts pregnant women and their babies.

So far the limited data available from overseas -- particularly from China where the virus first originated --  shows there is no increased risk to babies or pregnant women from coronavirus.

But the newness of the disease means the amount of evidence available is very limited. 10 daily spoke to a number of pregnant women in Australia who have made life-changing decisions for the health of their unborn baby.

Image: Getty

Isabel Lo, a pregnant Australian woman and mother of two, said coronavirus was forcing a lot of expectant mothers to make difficult decisions to keep their family safe.

Lo fled her home of two years in New York last week, after deciding she would feel safer in the hands of Australia's healthcare system than in America's -- which is experiencing its own severe coronavirus crisis.

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She and her two young children were on one of the first flights to land in Australia after a mandatory quarantine requirement was put in place for all arrivals on Monday.

"It's really hard," she said, "a lot of Australians overseas are weighing up exactly the same thing."

Lo's husband stayed behind in New York, meaning the pair had to make the difficult decision to be separated for a few months and for him to potentially miss the birth of his first child.

Isabel Lo arrived in Australia on Monday with her two young children. She is currently in self-isolation. Her husband remained in New York indefinitely. Image: supplied

Lo, who is still in home isolation, said she doesn't regret her decision, but admitted there were many factors they had to weigh up very quickly, including potentially exposing herself to the virus on a 30 hour flight.

But I think the window of opportunity for a lot of Australians is closing very quickly.

Lo said she won't be re-enrolling her children in school while they're here in Australia.

"I am just trying my best to not have too much anxiety because that's not good for the pregnancy either."

Other expecting mums have also told 10 daily they have pulled their children out of schools and daycare to reduce the risk of exposure.

Kelly Mitchell said she and her family were worried about the disease and made the decision to take their two young children out of daycare earlier this week because they would be safer at home.

"I've still got three month to go, so I'm hoping this is all settled down a little bit by then and basically, I'll be self isolating as much as possible in the meantime," she told 10 daily.

Now, aside from supermarket runs and any necessary doctors appointments, the family is self-isolating as much as possible.

While Mitchell hasn't noticed any changes to her doctors' appointments for her pregnancy amid the virus outbreak, she said she's choosing to limit her visits to those that are essential and avoid basic checkups at a busy Sydney hospital.

Like many other pregnant women, Mitchell has also been forced to pull back from her work -- although she and her husband's business has already been heavily hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

The pair who run a candy and party shop, supplying lollies, chocolate and party supplies to weddings, corporate events and restaurants and bars should be in the middle of a busy pre-Easter season.

Instead, they've been forced to let go a number of their staff with Easter, Anzac Day and even Mother's Day events already cancelled.

We're hoping people are just freaking out in the moment and maybe in the next couple of weeks it can calm down.

While in some countries, such as the UK, pregnant women are considered to be among the groups vulnerable to the disease, in Australia this is not currently the case.

On Wednesday, when asked about advice to Australian women who are pregnant, the Chief Medical Officer said they cannot be expected to self-isolate for their entire pregnancy.

"Anyone who is pregnant, as a matter of principle, obviously pays close attention to their health and they will try and not, avoid contact with someone who has any infection," Brendan Murphy told reporters.



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Murphy also referenced evidence from China which showed that pregnant women who contracted Covid-19 only experienced a mild illness with no significant impact on the foetus.

In updated advice to expecting mums released earlier this week, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said there is little evidence the virus can pass to developed babies while pregnant nor that it will cause abnormalities in babies.

"We want to reassure you that the risk to you and your baby is extremely small," RANZCOG said.

But another heaving pregnant woman told 10 daily, they hadn't been particularly reassured because the research available was so limited.



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While Australians have been told there is no need for panic around COVID-19, the complexity of the disease and its community impacts can be difficult to comprehend for adults let alone for young children.

She said with pregnancy already resulting in many lifestyle restrictions, extra precautions around Covid-19 became an added stress, especially where women have been forced to take the extra measure of stopping work early. 

If you suspect you or a family member has COVID-19 you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.