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Uncertainty, anxiety and isolation are hallmarks of pregnancy during the pandemic

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged all pregnant women Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, to get the COVID-19 vaccine as hospitals in hot spots around the U.S. see disturbingly high numbers of unvaccinated mothers-to-be seriously ill with the virus. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Charles Krupa/AP
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged all pregnant women Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, to get the COVID-19 vaccine. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Pregnancy brings many changes to a person’s life.

The addition of a deadly virus outbreak to an already life-altering experience brought stress to many mothers and hospital workers during the pandemic.

Olena Keliʻi gave birth to her second daughter during the pandemic at Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center.

Usually, family and friends are allowed to accompany pregnant mothers to visits to the OB-GYN or ultrasounds. But during the pandemic, family members were not allowed to any of Keliʻi's appointments except one.

A few medical staff and her partner were the only ones allowed in the room when she was in labor. When she gave birth to her first daughter before the pandemic, her entire family came to give her support.

Olena Keliʻi
Keliʻi's partner wears a mask as he holds his newborn.

Keliʻi said the most difficult aspect of experiencing pregnancy during the pandemic was the uncertainty.

"There was a lot of anxiety about being out. For one, I didn’t want to catch COVID, period. And I wanted to keep my toddler isolated and safe as possible," she said.

"We didn’t know what would happen with you and your baby because you’re at higher risk of complications. Having a baby in general, your life is going to change so much. Having to do that very isolated was pretty difficult, mentally," Keliʻi told HPR.

To reduce the risk of COVID transmission, telehealth appointments increased.

When having in-person consultations, obstetricians follow a strict personal protective equipment protocol.

Mothers must be tested for COVID-19 before being admitted to the hospital for labor, regardless of showing any symptoms.

Dr. Kelly Yamasato from Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women & Children explained what happens when a woman tests positive for COVID-19 before going into labor.

"She’ll labor and deliver her baby in a negative pressure room. This type of room lessens the chance of viral particles leaving the room," Yamasato said. "There’s no routine testing of newborns. However, if the mother has tested positive for COVID, the child will be tested after birth, and sometimes more than one test is required."

Yamasato said efforts are made to keep newborns and mothers in the same room — as long as it’s safe.

She also said the pandemic amplified the already decreasing birth rate in Hawaiʻi.

Over 100,000 pregnant women contracted COVID-19 in the U.S., and there have been 180 deaths so far.

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an urgent health advisory to increase coronavirus vaccination among people who are pregnant, recently pregnant (including those who are lactating), who are trying to become pregnant now, or who might become pregnant in the future.

Zoe Dym was a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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