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'Lack of family support and isolation': What's it like to be pregnant and give birth in a pandemic?

Tina Chopra with her son, Fatehvir Singh, who was born during lockdown in Melbourne. Source: Supplied by Tina Chopra

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, pregnancy and childbirth for women are taking place in unusual circumstances. SBS Punjabi spoke to new mums in the community, who shared their experiences of being pregnant, delivering and taking care of a newborn during the ongoing health crisis that has forced borders shut and compelled parents to start this new phase in isolation.

Melbourne-based Tina Chopra has just given birth to her second child.

While the 'good news' left her overwhelmed, she wasn't prepared to go through the life-changing experience of birthing and bringing up a child alone, without family support.

"I thought giving birth to my second baby would be relatively easier than the first one, but little did I know that I would have to do everything alone without any emotional or mental support", the 37-year old mum told SBS Punjabi.


Highlights:

  • Pregnant women claim they were under intense stress during the COVID-19 outbreak
  • Access to regular health services for expectant and new mums has changed during COVID
  • Medical experts urge pregnant women and new mothers to reach out for help

Ms Chopra, whose firstborn is now three years old, said she conceived her second child when the pandemic had just begun to upend lives in Australia. 

lockdown babies
Tina Chopra with her son. Like many mothers, Tina spent her pregnancy and gave birth amidst this pandemic.
Supplied by Tina Chopra

As she shared her experience, the new mum said the challenges for parents who already have another child are even more daunting than they are for first-time parents.

"I had to deliver alone as my husband had to stay with my older son, who due to restrictions was not allowed to join me at the hospital or to meet his younger sibling," she recalled.

'I have been deprived of family support in my journey to motherhood'

Meanwhile, for expectant mothers, the ordeal has just begun. 

Deepika, who is due to deliver later this year, said she has been deprived of family support and has been forced into isolation due to COVID-induced border restrictions. 

"My journey to motherhood has been deprived of guidance and support, and the prenatal care is getting tedious day by day as our parents or extended family cannot visit us from India.

"My partner is not allowed in any of the scans, and he is missing out on all the precious moments," rued the 33-year-old.

She added that migrants like her have to rely on friends, who are the "only family support" in Australia.

lockdown babies
Deepika, a Melbourne based pregnant women.
Supplied by Deepika

Ms Deepika, who works full time, said the fear of contracting the virus prevents her from stepping out of the home.

"I am scared to even go out for walks as I fear that I may get infected," she said.

Relying on telehealth appointments instead of face-to-face antenatal services has also been a recurrent problem for expectant mothers. 

"I had no face-to-face appointments with my doctor until 28 weeks of pregnancy. I only had telehealth appointments which arent's as satisfying as seeing your doctor in person," Ms Deepika said.

Seek help when needed

Dr Zeeshan Akram, a GP based in Melbourne, said that the health services have shifted during the pandemic to respond to unprecedented circumstances.

"This has led to a bit of irregularity in regular services, but many options are still available. So everything is not negative," he said.

Dr Akram said that expectant and new mums should not hesitate to reach out to the midwives for support. They can also seek help from the government-facilitated services available across the country.

"Ask your midwife to share the contacts of the social help around, and after filling the forms, you can access these services. You can also enrol into the antenatal classes that help you get ready for birth and parenting, some of which are offered for free at the hospitals," he advised.

Disclaimer: This article's content and audio are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Click on the player at the top of the page to listen to the podcast in Punjabi.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 meters away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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