For new mothers, the COVID crisis may cause added stress and worry but what is the truth about having a baby during the pandemic?
Here, Lisa Wood, 40, shares her pregnancy diary.
Wood, who works in PR, lives in South Manchester with husband Westley, 40, director of an online business and daughters Sienna, six, and Summer, six months.
31 Dec, 2019: I’m pregnant! I’m shocked because after six years of trying, we had really given up hope but we’re both thrilled that this will be a little brother or sister for Sienna.
11 March: Westley and I go for our twelve week scan together. He came to every single appointment when I was pregnant with Sienna. We’re told that everything is fine with the baby and we’re so excited.
15 April: We’ve been in lockdown for over three weeks and everything feels very strange. As a "geriatric mum" I’ve been told that I need regular check-ups at the hospital but Westley can no longer accompany me. We’re both disappointed but at least I’m not a first time mother and have some idea of what lies ahead.
5 May: My 20 week scan and we’ve decided we want to find out the sex. This is usually such an exciting appointment and I’m really sad that Westley can’t be with me. The sonographer says I’m not allowed to film the moment or even write anything down. I’m not sure why.
In the end I reveal the news to Westley and Sienna that evening: It’s a girl!
29 May: I’m 25 weeks pregnant and I’ve started bleeding. I ring the hospital and I’m told to go in but Westley has to drop me off in the carpark. We’re both terrified that I might be in early labour. I’m told the baby may – or may not – survive and if she does, she’ll be in an incubator for many weeks.
I’m given a COVID test and once we know I’m negative I’m admitted to a ward alongside other women who are at full term. I now have to wear a mask whenever one of the doctors or nurses comes to my bedside. It all feels surreal.
All through the night I hear several women going into labour. They are ringing their partners, asking them to come in. Will I be allowed to do that if that happens to me? I don’t know.
30 May: It’s a false alarm. The bleeding stops and I’m told to go home.
5 July: I have several telephone consultations with midwives and doctors but at this appointment in person, I’ve elected for a c-section for a variety of reasons. The doctors are unsure if Westley can be with me during the operation and that makes me really anxious. I’m not sure I can do this on my own.
I’ve started doing Zoom yoga with other mums I’d met at a pregnancy yoga class in January. It’s invaluable to me. There are no antenatal classes so this is my only contact with other pregnant mothers and we’re all nervous.
The joy has been sucked out of our pregnancies, there is no excitement from work colleagues as our bump grows, no friendly: ‘When are you due?’ questions from shoppers in the supermarket. It feels soulless.
Watch: Bleeding after sex while pregnant, should I worry?
4 August: The date of my c-section and thankfully Westley has been allowed to come with me. I’ve asked my parents – both in their 70s – to look after Sienna. I don’t want them to get sick by mixing with us but what choice do I have? This is essential and there are no nurseries open.
Around 11.30am, our baby daughter Summer arrives safely. I was concerned that Westley would have to leave us both immediately afterwards but we’re told he can stay for a few hours to bond with his new daughter.
5 August: Mothers are normally given 48 hours to recover after a c-section but in the current situation, the hospital wants everyone out after 24 hours. The ward is busy, with nurses rushed off their feet. My pain relief is wearing off but I’m determined to get back on my feet, have a shower and prove I’m fit enough to go home. I’m allowed to leave.
September: I recover well and although I’ve seen midwives since my operation, I’ve not seen a single health visitor. I’ve even called them a couple of times to see if I should bring my daughter in to be checked over but they say there’s no need and they’re not doing home visits. I hope mothers who are suffering from postnatal depression are being given priority.
February 2021: As a new mum I’ve felt very isolated from other mums, even though I have my husband and little girl to keep me company. But I’ve missed those coffee mornings and playdates that are so crucial to a mum’s mental health.
My husband feels he’s missed out too. He was particularly upset about missing the 20 week scan and felt helpless when I was in hospital on my own. Summer hasn’t even met some of her relatives yet.
It’s been very strange but the care we’ve been given throughout has been wonderful. We have a lot to be grateful for.
The Institute of Health Visiting (IHV) urges new parents to remember they can contact their health visitor if they are concerned or worried about themselves or their child’s health and wellbeing.
"All health visitors are following NHS and Public Health England COVID-19 guidance," the IHV said in a statement.
"Face-to-face contact with families will only be offered for compelling reasons in order to comply with social distancing and social isolation guidance. The decision on face-to-face contacts will be based on your family’s health needs (this includes mothers/ fathers/ partners and the needs of your children, including unborn babies)."
Watch: Pregnant women 'can pass on COVID antibodies to their babies'.