Expecting during the unexpected: Pregnancy during the coronavirus crisis -- COVID-19 Diaries

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Expectant mother, Alina Shinkarsky is ready to give birth any day now, but first, she must make a difficult decision regarding who will accompany her in the delivery room due tothe coronavirus pandemic.

"How do you tell your partner that 'I love you, but I'm so sorry. I prefer someone else in the delivery room with me for the birth of your first child'?" said Shinkarsky.

Many hospitals are now restricting expectant mothers to only one support person in the delivery room and cutting off all other visitors because of COVID-19. For Shinkarsky, that means potentially choosing between her husband, Alex, or her doula, Jen Darwin.

Her husband is being very supportive. He explained, "Definitely would love to be there. But I feel, like practically speaking, if we have to choose one of us, it probably makes more sense for the doula, for Jen, because she's actually, like, medically trained."

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Pregnant women are also navigating changes to prenatal doctor appointments and postnatal plans.

Bree Berry, who is due in June with her first child, is also a labor and delivery nurse.

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"Your typical prenatal appointments have changed. A lot of them have changed to video appointments if they're able to do so," Berry explained. "Your significant other cannot attend any of these appointments.
If you do have to go in, neither can your family or child. They're not supposed to go in with you."

After the baby is born, Berry fears she won't have hands-on help from her family because of social distancing.

"I think my biggest worry postnatally, though, is that I always encourage my patients to welcome the help from their family--welcome people wanting to come help them as far as making food for them, coming to clean for them and having them in the house to give you that extra time to recover. I'm not going to be able to have that," said Berry.

Dr. Karen Callen from Golden Gate Obstetrics and Gynecology in San Francisco says she is spending a lot of time trying to alleviate stress in her patients. She's also working to keep up with changing health guidelines, including how to handle cases of COVID-positive moms in labor and their babies.

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"There are different practices all over the country in different areas. The CDC has some specific recommendations and I'm just trying to learn about those now," Dr. Callen explained. "The practice of separating babies from their moms for 14 days is one approach. So I think as the time passes, and we get more information, we'll have a better handle on what the best way to protect babies and to keep moms and babies together."

Despite the anxiety and uncertainty, Dr. Callen isn't discouraging people from getting pregnant.

"I think in nine months, certainly we're going to have a lot more information. We will pass the first wave of this and potentially it will be closer to getting a vaccine. So I think in nine months, things will be more business as usual. This will pass," she said, "We will get through this and we'll come out the other end. We'll have a lot more knowledge and we'll have new experiences that will make things in some ways better."

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As for Alina, her husband, and her doula, technology may be the answer.

"Maybe Alex will come to the hospital with me, and Jen will be on WhatsApp or on like a video on Zoom or something," Alina ponders.

Add births to the growing list of things going virtual.

COVID-19 Diaries is an ABC7 Originals limited series that shares the personal stories of Bay Area people as we work together to cope with coronavirus and re-define what it means to live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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