What COVID-19 means for parents-to-be on P.E.I.

With three successful deliveries under her belt, Brandi Hudson wasn't too worried about the process of welcoming baby number four into the world.  

"This isn't our first rodeo," said Hudson, who is due at the end of April. "So it really wasn't something that was anxiety-inducing in any way until now."

That's because suddenly, with P.E.I. imposing strict rules aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19, Hudson's fourth delivery experience may be nothing like her other three. 

For starters, with Islanders being told to keep their distance from others and avoid get-togethers, finding anyone to watch her kids when she goes into labour may be impossible. 

"I've really been most concerned with the logistics of it all," she said. "Am I driving myself to the hospital, and leaving my husband home with our three kids, or are we all going and they're dropping me off at the door?"

Hudson also wonders what special rules will be in place at the hospital — primarily, will any visitors be allowed after the baby's born? 

Case by case

Marion Dowling, Health PEI's chief of nursing, said right now, hospital staff are looking at it case by case. 

I'm assuming we'll have the baby, I'll bring he or she home, and we'll assume self-isolation. — Heather Elia

"It's really based on our staff in those facilities following the guidance from the Public Health Office, but also making sure the staff and the family is safe, as well as other patients coming through those areas," Dowling said. 

"It's discussed and based on the individual circumstances of that family."

That's all playing on the mind of Heather Elia, who is due in early April with her first child. Even when she and her husband return home with their baby, she's questioning whether friends and family will be allowed to stop in, to meet their baby and offer them support. 

"Initially, you're thinking of all the great family visitors you're going to have, and sharing your newborn with friends and family," said Elia. "And knowing that in this pandemic, social distancing is so important and has to be abided by, those plans really have to change."

"At this point, I'm assuming we'll have the baby, I'll bring he or she home, and we'll assume self-isolation," Hudson said. "And when the smoke clears, we'll introduce the baby to everyone. He or she could be three months old then, who knows."

Submitted by Heather Elia

P.E.I.'s chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison said unfortunately, that is the new reality. 

"It's really important at this point in time that they reach out, and instead of having physical visits, they do as much as they can by Zoom and Facetime and pictures," she said.

"And try to share, in a different way, the wonderful special experience of bringing a baby home in those first weeks." 

P.E.I.'s Health Department says it's also been fielding questions from pregnant women, wondering if they or their baby are at any higher risk of contracting COVID-19, or suffering complications if they do. 

On its COVID-19 website, the department explains that pregnancy "does not seem to increase a person's chances of becoming infected" or "the chance of serious complications."

But it cautions there is limited research, and "information in this area is changing rapidly."

The department's advice right now is that pregnant women practise the same measures as all Islanders, to limit the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. 

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

  • Fever.

  • Cough.

  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

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