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The story of a woman who gave birth whilst having the deadly virus

Giving birth is an act only a woman can experience. The patience, the changes, the pain, the trauma, and the eventual pleasure of biologically delivering a baby is life-changing. Nevertheless, giving birth during a global pandemic is also quite a challenge – a challenge which many couples did not expect to happen, which they have postponed or stopped their choice. According to data by the national statistics agency Istat, 50% of Germans and French have postponed the decision to have a baby; and 37% of Italians have abandoned the idea of having a baby. Despite birth rates dropping at an alarming rate, there are a few people who decided to have a baby. But there are also some people, like Stephanie McDowell, who gave birth with the COVID-19.

Stephanie McDowell, a Widnes resident, gave birth to her baby whilst being infected with the virus.

“It was the craziest experience of my life”, explained the mother, who originally tested positive for the virus on the 10th of January 2021. During this time, she was 36 weeks pregnant.

Originally, Steph decided to take a test after her mother tested positive. At first, she conducted a lateral flow test which came back negative. However, days later, symptoms started to develop – high temperature, and no taste or smell – resulting in her decision to take a PCR test. Steph explained that due to her symptoms, she had to isolate which she “was worried and cautious. No one understood anything. I could not turn to my family, as we were in lockdown”. The combination of being pregnant, living in a pandemic due to a ‘deadly virus’, and having to isolate herself because of her symptoms dramatically affected her mental health.  This comes concerning the NHS’s statement that pregnant women are in the “moderate risk (clinically vulnerable) group”. Pregnant women are “sometimes be more at risk from viruses like flu if you’re pregnant”.

“My anxiety was through the roof. I was worried and cautious. No one understood anything and I could not turn to my family”. Moreover, the thought of whether the virus could affect her “pregnancy, and more importantly my baby, was constantly on my mind”. However, during her isolation period Steph’s “most frightening thought” became reality.

Steph went into labour. “My waters broke, and as this was my first time I worried” explained Steph. But even thoug  h she had symptoms, the “routine was standard.

“There was no COVID procedure”.

“I first called the delivery suite, which the baby’s father drove us to the hospital. Once arriving, I was placed into a side room due to having symptoms. But because of the confusion, everybody was giving different advice”.

Even though McDowell’s waters broke on the Saturday, the staff allowed her to go home as “she was not in full labour”, but to return the following day for a routine check-up. She decided to go home “so she was not on her own”. Nonetheless, Steph’s labour progressed. The mother returned for the routine check-up, which due to her anxiety she requested medics to induce her the following day.

Steph encountered more problems during labour.

“I asked to take my partner in the room with me, which at first the nurses did not know if he could. There was a COVID nurse on the delivery suite, who takes charge of all of the people who have got symptoms or has COVID-19”. The nurse explained if her partner takes a test, which comes back as negative, he will be allowed in the delivery suite. But more confusion occurred once a nurse questioned the type of test her partner had taken. Since the test was a lateral flow test, he could not come in. “This was at two in the morning, I was ready to go into labour. I burst into tears since he could not come in. Everyone was in lockdown. My family were isolating. What do I do?”.

However, an opportunity was given to Steph to allow her sister in the delivery suite with her, as her sister did not have symptoms. The NHS claims that a birth partner is allowed in if they do not have symptoms.

But after all the fear, confusion, and 15 hours of pain in labour, baby Teddy was born.

The mother and her new born baby (**with permission to use**)

Yet due to the mother having COVID-19, the baby also had the virus which as a result, “was put on a register, which I think carefully measures him in case any future health problems happen to him as a result of COVID-19”. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists reports that if you have the virus, it is “unlikely to cause problems with your baby’s development, and there have been no reports of this so far”. Looking back at her first chapter of a mother, Steph acknowledges that it was challenging0. The baby is in good health, and so is she.

However, a message the mother has to new upcoming mothers is “to do not worry”.

“It was all worth it in the end”.

[Image is owned by Natalia Deriabina and was purchased from Shutterstock]

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