Pregnant women face a ‘spectrum of anxiety’ as the number of COVID-19 cases increases in Canberra

For Lily Withycombe, the pregnancy has not quite been as she had imagined it would be.

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

“Last year, when I first got 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 started, it’s been a really scary time being pregnant.”

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

They only leave their homes for walks and a daily dose of caffeine, which Mr. Goodwin orders behind a mask and while staying socially at a distance.

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

But that means the couple’s lives as expectant parents have been far from what they had imagined.

A man and a woman smile at the camera with their arms around each other.
Expectant parents Lily and Tim say they have been in self-imposed lockdown since December.(ABC News: Dave Sciasci)

“We have not been able to do many of the things we enjoy the most,” said Mr. Goodwin.

“Going to the cinema, for example, is something we usually do every week, and it has stopped.

“So it’s taken part of the experience away.”

Ms Withycombe described a “spectrum of anxiety” about the risk of being pregnant in the midst of record-breaking COVID-19 case numbers in ACT, and a variant that shows no signs of slowing down.

“My first concern is that I may be in close contact and I may miss a critical medical appointment,” she said.

“And then, at the end of the spectrum, I’m worried I’m going to catch COVID myself.”

‘A big dose of anxiety in Canberra’s expectant mothers’

Obstetrician dr. Steve Robson said every pregnant woman who walked through his door repeated the same concerns as Mrs. Withycombe.

“I think we’re seeing a lot of anxiety in Canberra’s expectant mothers at the moment, and for good reason,” he said.

“We also know that if a expectant mother receives COVID, it increases the chance of unwanted outcomes such as stillbirth and growth restriction with the baby – that is, the baby does not grow normally.

“There is also a marked increase in the risk of premature birth.”

A man in blue medical scrubs smiles at the camera.
Canberra Obstetrician Dr. Steve Robson says the best protection for pregnant Canberrans during the outbreak is to be vaccinated and receive a booster shot.(ABC News: Dave Sciasci)

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

When on the go, they should pay attention to social distancing and wearing a mask.

Evidence shows that boosters are not only safe during pregnancy, but reduce the risk of getting COVID-19 and prevent the likelihood of serious illness if a person does.

“We know for a woman who has received three vaccinations that if she gets the Omicron variant, her chance of ending up in the hospital decreases by 90 percent,” added Dr. Robson.

However difficult it may be, it is also important to keep stress levels low while you are pregnant.

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

“If you have any concerns, be sure to 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 Mrs Withycombe is trying to do, will also help.

“I can not wait to meet her,” she said.

“Despite all the worries and concerns that COVID brings, I’m still most of all so excited and so excited.”

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