Fear is ever present in a pregnant woman’s mind, even if it comes in little flashes of worry, or in trepidation of the future. When you’re a woman who has been through miscarriage, this fear can become all consuming – every visit to the bathroom is a worrying one. Add Covid to the mix, and basically one can become quite the mess and nervous wreck.
And so it was for me, and so it still strikes me sometimes as I carry this baby, who has been in my belly for seven months. I got Covid about two weeks ago, and have fully recovered. Thankfully, my illness was drama-free and like the usual seasonal cough and cold. I credit this to the vaccinations and booster that I have taken to reduce the risks I face as a pregnant woman.
Faith – and fears
Truthfully, I was very nervous about taking the booster. Even as a person who believes in science and has faith in vaccinations, I was a different person with this baby in me – my fears were amplified. Being pregnant is a vulnerable state for a woman, and having already experienced a miscarriage previously meant I felt extra protective and worried for the safety of this baby.
I had to discuss things carefully with my husband, and sought advice and information from my doctor, midwives and my family and friends who worked in the medical profession. I ended up making the decision pretty quickly, despite my fears.
Why and how did I come to my conclusions?
Firstly, I remember so well when I was pregnant the last time with the baby I would sadly miscarry. It was January 2021, and we were filled with happiness and hope. I was meant to get my first Covid jab that month itself, but as the NHS guidance at the time in England was not to vaccinate if you were pregnant, it was an easy decision to cancel the appointment.
Unfortunately, I was to miscarry later at the end of February. It was a very painful loss. Sometimes I wonder now: what I would have been thinking if I had gone with the vaccination anyway? Would I have thought, like some out there do, that vaccinations were dangerous, and resulted in my loss? Would it not have been human nature to blame it on the vaccination, as I’ve previously had two healthy pregnancies?
That was a very sobering time for me – to realise that you can be as healthy as can be and do everything right, but your body will ultimately do things that you may not expect it too. I had carried my two sons fine years ago, and they were born naturally, without any problem. I have always been running and exercised when I was pregnant, even running a 10km race in London when I was about five months pregnant with my second son! I was fit and healthy. But there was nothing I could have done.
A miscarriage is just like the other sudden health surprises your body can cruelly give you – like a heart attack, a stroke, even cancer.
After that loss, I would go on to take my Covid vaccinations and complete the two Astra Zeneca jabs by the end of May 2021. These vaccinations protected me through a very long and worrying period teaching in a school with hundreds of children and staff – Covid was always the enemy that could take us at any time.
And although there has been misinformation spread about vaccinations causing infertility or resulting in problems, it was to my surprise and delight to find myself pregnant in August. Despite my happiness, fear was ever present. I almost cancelled a long awaited return to Malaysia because of so much fear – I feared miscarrying on the long 13-hour flight, I feared miscarrying during the 14-day hotel quarantine in Malaysia. I carried heavy sanitary pads everywhere. Every time I went to the toilet and looked down, there was palpable relief to see no blood. I could not tell you how many times I worried and cried and prayed… especially when I suffered some food poisoning during my quarantine. That rendered me sick with worry, and I lay horizontal for quite a while.
So when I returned to London under rather dramatic circumstances (I wanted to return earlier as my husband had Covid and we were worried about him and our young sons), the fears just never really stopped. My doctor had told me that the most dangerous times for a pregnant woman to get Covid was during the first and third trimester. “Let’s face it, nobody wants to get Covid when they are pregnant, but if you should get it in your second trimester, that’s the best time if any, because it is safer than the complications that could arise in the other two trimesters.”
Doctors say that high fevers in pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, can raise the risk of birth defects, and if you catch Covid in your third trimester the risk of getting seriously ill is higher, and this could lead to complications like preterm birth or stillbirth. Obviously, I was nervous about this, and tried to be very careful when I returned to my family in London. Thankfully, my husband recovered well, my children were fine, and I did not get ill.
To boost, or not to boost
When I was told that I could go to get my booster, I must admit I had reservations. After dealing with so much fear, it’s truly a mental deep breath to imagine putting anything into your body when you have another life in you. I discussed this with my husband, talked to my doctor, and sought advice from my family and friends who were doctors, nurses and midwives. I also looked at the official advice from the NHS and organisations I respect, such as the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists.
As I am formerly a reporter and have been trained in media literacy as a teacher, I also knew how to look for dependable and trustworthy sources of information. The information was reassuring and clear — Covid vaccinations and boosters are safe and recommended in pregnancy. My friend Amanda, who worked in the NHS as a midwife, also said 90 per cent of the intensive therapy units at the time were pregnant women who were not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated.
The data from the UK Obstetric Surveillance System also shows that 96.3 per cent of pregnant women admitted to the hospital were unvaccinated, and a third of them required respiratory support. After vaccination, antibodies also cross the placenta and can protect babies from illness too.
Protecting my health and my baby’s safety
I did not want to end up in the hospital, I did not want to end up on ventilators, and I certainly want my baby to be delivered as safely as possible. And so on a cold but sunny day in November, I went to take the booster, and it was quick, painless and problem-free. I took the Pfizer (my previous two vaccinations were Astra-Zeneca), and felt a day of tiredness and a little sore arm, but nothing more. I felt good that I was doing my very best to protect my health and my baby’s safety.
Months later, the Omicron strain was spreading through London and the UK like wildfire – it proved to be far more infectious than previous strains. It was clear that breakthrough infections were rife, but that vaccinated people were experiencing comparatively milder symptoms and illness. When Covid was spreading in schools, my 4-year-old son caught it and then it spread to me – anyone who knows how clingy little ones can be would perhaps understand this inevitability! My husband and other son remained well and tested negative all the way.
Thankfully, Covid seemed to go lightly on us – my son had what seemed like a regular cold, and I felt under the weather for a few days. I had a bit of a cough, but mainly just felt tired. I checked in with my midwifery unit, and they told me if I felt very unwell, I should call in. “What should I be looking out for?”, I asked. “Oh when you feel very unwell, you will know!”, the midwife said. That may not have sounded very helpful, but it seemed to align with everything I had been told about vaccinated people who caught Covid – it was something that could be handled at home easily, and without issue.
The Post-Covid outcome
I felt better after about 5 days, and was ready to bust out of isolation. (Of course I did not!) Handling the two children with Covid was fine, thanks to my hands-on and helpful husband. The baby in my belly moved and kicked all through the illness, and is still similarly active now.
A check in with my midwife recently showed that baby’s heartbeat is fine, and I am feeling good. Following this, a growth scan taken just earlier in the week has also confirmed that baby is growing well, and that thankfully, everything is progressing as expected. It has all shown me that the Covid vaccines and booster I had protected me from serious illness and stopped the infection from turning severe or fatal.
I am currently 28 weeks pregnant and perhaps am not as fearful as I once was. In fact, I am very hopeful for the future. There is so much misinformation and disinformation out there about Covid vaccinations, and a lot of fear-mongering when it comes to pregnancies, but I have been reassured and comforted by the information, expertise and best intentions of the medical professionals, news sources and loved ones I trust.
What I’ve learned
My personal experience has taught me that the misinformation out there about vaccinations and pregnancy and fertility is false, but that fear-mongering and fearfulness can weigh heavily with your mind, and can make you think the worst and most negative of things day to day. I believe in vaccinations and their safety. But don’t take my word for it – this is just my experience, and therefore an anecdotal take from someone you do not know on the Internet. As with anything health-related, always talk to your medical professionals and refer to reliable sources of information. Social media is not good enough.
Of course, with pregnancy, health, and just living in general, there is a certain amount of trepidation or concern one can have about unknown possibilities in life – what if something bad happens tomorrow? But I live with the faith I have that I have done and continue to do the absolute best I can for me and my children – I bring them into this world knowing that the very best of science and medicine represents the very best of humanity because it teaches us how to learn, trust, protect and hope for the betterment of all.
By Laych Koh