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Experiencing pregnancy during Covid-19: Interview with Dr Maryam Behnam

Whilst we have all experienced quite a few unique months, that is especially true for those experiencing pregnancy. Dr Maryam Behnam is a Private GP here at Chelsea Pharmacy Medical Clinic who has not only experienced pregnancy during a pandemic but is working up until the last minute! We sit down with Dr Behnam at 38 weeks pregnant to talk about her experience and advice for other expecting mothers.

Your pregnancy started in “normal times” yet things have changed rapidly since then. What has your experience been like?

This is my first pregnancy and I must say that I had totally different expectations for it! The whole Covid-19 situation began quite early on in my pregnancy and everything changed quite quickly as a result.  Work, getting involved in antenatal classes, and of course hospital appointments had all changed. For example, some of my appointments were cancelled or changed to online and telephone consultations.

In terms of work, I did not take a lot of time off, but the way I worked definitely changed. I went from in-person consultations, to virtual consultations which was really helpful as it reduced the risk of contracting the virus, which is definitely something that can play on your mind. Whilst there are no proven examples that the virus is more harmful to pregnant women, we still don’t properly know what the effects of Covid-19 might be on pregnancy and the fetus.

What have you been doing during your pregnancy to keep your mind at ease?

Personally, I started focussing on mindfulness and yoga. I make sure that I go on a walk for at least thirty minutes every day and I also started reading things that were a lot more pleasant. I’ve been talking to my baby at home and putting on light music for the two of us. Keeping in touch with my friends and family via Skype and different apps has been particularly important as well.

What is some advice you would give to expecting mothers?

It hasn’t been an easy time at all. Pregnant or not, I’ve had a lot of patients coming in with quite understandably anxiety, depression and the worsening of mental health symptoms. Even I was affected because of all the social distancing measures put in place, meaning not getting as much as support as I would’ve liked from family and friends. Looking after your mental health is something that I am advising my patients on as it is quite important not only during pregnancy, but post-natal as well. My main advice is to try and keep your mental health sanity and if you feel like you need help, definitely get in touch with your doctor so they can refer you to the psychology services.

What are some of the biggest changes you have noticed for pregnant women in general?

From a medical standpoint, I can totally appreciate that this is an anxious time for pregnant women, particularly first-time mothers as they may feel as if they are not getting enough attention from the medical team as they were originally expecting. One thing that has affected most pregnant women is that the hospitals understandably limited the number of people allowed to attend an appointment. A lot of the time the partners are not allowed which is of course upsetting especially if it is your baby.

One thing that I personally liked is that the hospital was sending daily messages to pregnant women to not avoid the hospital if they were experiencing issues. For example, if a mother feels like the baby is not moving, they are obviously the priority and they need to contact the medical services. It is challenging, and definitely not easy but it’s doable and important for keeping everyone safe.

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