TRT World spoke to three expectant women, who are dealing with stress and apprehension about getting infected with the coronavirus, as well as the standard nerves, as their due date approaches.
Havva Baran is going through health anxiety. As an expectant mother, she finds herself exposed to high risk zones, which is a hospital in her case since she has to visit her doctor for regular checkups.
"As my doctor prepares for the baby, she is also stocking blood transfusions and blood platelets in case my platelet count drops below normal during labour. A cardiologist will be present during the C-section as I have a heart problem too,” 39-year-old Baran told TRT World.
“I’m so panicked as I feel like I’m entering the ring of fire as a pregnant mother during a time of global pandemic."
Baran finds it confusing to sift through the overload of information she reads on social media regarding the coronavirus. At times, she finds replies from healthcare workers evasive and pointless.
“Rather than comforting, the anesthesiologist drove me even crazier when she said she recommends spinal anesthesia over general one as it is safer that I won’t inhale the medicine through a breathing mask. I asked ’why should it be safer? Don’t you sterilize masks?’ then she goes ‘of course, we sterilise the equipment thoroughly but can not guarantee 100 percent safety bla bla’.
"This was the moment I lost it. Me and my husband were puzzled, our brains are already numb, we are in horror, freaking out about every bit of new information about the coronavirus in the media as the delivery date approaches.”
She then took the matter to her gynaecologist who simply told her not to overtly depend on what healthcare workers tell her about the nature of the coronavirus, since everyone is learning about this new respiratory disease.
Instead of finding solace in expert's advice, she's now fretting over apprehensions like whether the coronavirus survives longer in cold environments such as operating theatres. No one is guaranteeing that she will be discharged from hospital coronavirus free, she said.
Baran has two daughters at home and at times disturbing thoughts come to her mind — that if something terrible happens to her, "who's going to take care of my other children?"
"Before I was worried about the labour and consumed with thoughts like — how am I going to take care of three children, will I be able to cope? Can I manage everything? Now all these thoughts have become irrelevant. I just want to deliver safely and return home without contracting the coronavirus,” she said.
Banu Deger is in her 37th week of pregnancy. She is also expecting her third child. Although she says she is not panicking yet, there are times she also feels like hitting rock bottom.
“I have a WhatsApp group with my mum and sister who is also a physician. They are my biggest support and they lift my spirits up quickly. Especially my sister’s advice comes in handy as she is both a professional and also family who wants only the best for me,” she explained.
She says for the past two days she has only been thinking about her hospital room after the delivery as before she was thinking the whole family and her daughters would be by her side and bonding with the new baby.
With the new protocols introduced in hospitals, this dream is out of the picture - delivering mothers will only have one support person with them. Deger says: “It is the hardest pill I swallow about delivering during the coronavirus pandemic. Being alone is creating a sort of fear that is surpassing the anxiety of the delivery itself.”
Deger wants to go into the delivery room with her husband but again she says nothing is confirmed as they do not know who’d be coronavirus free when the time comes. “My husband is still going to work, so he still maintains contact with the outside world. Thus, no guarantee,” she said.
Hospitals are also imposing restrictions by limiting visitors to the hospital.
For Elif Yazici, 25, who is pregnant with her first baby, due this month, she says she is glad to have experienced a smooth pregnancy throughout her first and second trimester. But when the coronavirus hit Turkish border on March 11, she started worrying about going to work. She took a doctor’s note and worked remotely just in case.
Yazici's biggest worry was not being able to have her parents by her side as they reside in the US and travel restrictions were taking place as Turkey was banning flights to more and more countries and Turkish Airlines was reducing the flight frequencies, even cutting some destinations. “I was super nervous calling my parents every day, checking up on the latest news on travel restrictions. Once that worked out, I’m now okay” Yazici told TRT World. Her parents had to cancel their existing tickets to Istanbul and repurchase tickets twice in fear of the country closing its borders earlier than they calculated.
Yazici has a midwife she talks to on a weekly basis and she was told to be prepared for home delivery as the news of the pandemic broke. For now, her private clinic is allowing the midwife and her husband to be present during the delivery but she says things might change and it makes her anxious. But she was able to visit both the obstetrician and the midwife in their clinics which take in patients for appointments. She is thankful that she can avoid hospital crowds and is able to have the access to support she needs as a first-time mother.
“Previously, we were discussing with my gyno whether to induce the delivery at the 38th week as the baby’s weight seems okay now. We came to a point we should keep him inside as long as it stays because the outside world is no safer than inside,” Deger said.
Baran’s gynaecologist said the delivery rooms are busy as many expecting mothers are demanding labour induction and now many doctors are delivering babies in the 37th or 38th week before the actual time comes. In addition, there are also babies arriving earlier than expected as mothers are in panic and they are suffering from high levels of anxiety unable to tolerate the uncertainty.
Baran is planning for her c-section in her 37th week and all she thinks about is how she can minimise the time she will have to stay in hospital. On the one hand she is constantly worried about whether the baby will need an incubator, on the other hand she is busy now with the things that she wouldn’t bother with in other circumstances.
Baran spoke to TRT World a day before her delivery while she was cooking as she was not planning to eat any meal the hospital provides. She said: “I don’t know who prepares the food and how? I heard even the hospital staff is not eating from the cafeteria anymore!” She bought a box of gloves and told us that she was going to request anyone who enters her room to put them one. She says she is overwhelmed with the preparations and at the back of her mind she is worried how they are going to keep distance from the rest of the household upon their return from the hospital with the new baby. Baran says she doesn’t want to bring back any virus from the hospital as her in-laws are staying with them to take care of the other two children.
Baran said she just wants to fast forward the upcoming 15 days in her life to feel the relief of knowing that they did not contract the virus from the hospital, and are back in their home safe and sound. She adds, laughing:“But I also can’t imagine my postpartum confinement during a home confinement period!”
Although Turkish authorities have not imposed a lockdown in the country, citizens are ordered to stay at home - people over the age of 65 and those with chronic illnesses are banned from leaving their homes; all public gatherings and sports events are cancelled; the use of public transportation and the number of customers permitted inside grocery stores are strictly limited. The restrictions also include schools which are suspended until the end of April.
Deger, an engineer by profession, said she is a control freak, trying to stick to her calculations and plans. “I left the baby shopping for my maternity leave as I’ve been working full time. I was sent home a week earlier to work from home as my company wanted to take precautions to protect the vulnerable. Since then I’ve been under lockdown at home for three weeks now, and all my detailed plans about how to decorate the crib, prepare door gifts, buy bibs, birth cloths, bottles and other essentials are gone with the wind,” she said.
Yazici had all the preparations figured out through the hospital’s contracted event organisers to come and decorate the room, as well as photographers for a shoot, but none of that will happen now. Everything was cancelled as soon as the coronavirus hit Turkish borders.
“Me and my husband, we are very future oriented. We’ve planned our August holiday plans with the baby as half of my family lives overseas but now all have become irrelevant. No long term plans for now, all I want is to deliver safely and return home with my daughter,” she said.
Deger was expecting to see her gynecologist once a week as her delivery is around the corner but she said: “Doctors are telling us not to come as long as we feel the baby’s movements inside. They do not call for check ups. Before my gyno was demanding me to take walks but now she just wants me to stay indoors and walk from wall to wall, room to room whatever I can manage without leaving the house.”
Yazici said: “I’m feeling catastrophic, being in the house all the time for the past three weeks and I will be in the house once the baby comes out, maybe another two months. That does make me feel a little bit nervous and sad as we always thought it's a spring baby and we’ll be able to do so many things with my daughter. All these dreams are gone now.”
Banu said she used to have nightmares before her deliveries and her nightmares now include a dirty hospital, places full of virus as she assumes a reflection of her worries daytime. She has limited her screen time and is almost watching no news.
“I only come across some alerts via whatsapp groups including warnings or some scientific information but then again after a while we receive updates that what had been circulating was fake. So there is no reliable information out there and I’d rather not read but surrender to the will of God,” she said.
Yazici says they are also avoiding news bulletins and rather watching movies with her husband as she gets emotional and panicked. “I just want this to be over sooner than we expect but I don’t have high hopes as I see the US, Italy and Spain struggling and the number of deaths are staggering. We’re at the beginning stage in Turkey and this coming two-three weeks will determine our faith,” she said.
Pregnant women across the world are grappling with similar concerns as the coronavirus pandemic spreads.