Getting Covid in Pregnancy

Being pregnant in a pandemic is hard. Being a nurse in a pandemic is hard. Naturally, being a pregnant nurse in a pandemic is bloody awful. Not to mention a covid positive, pregnant nurse in a pandemic. 

In this blog post I’m going to discuss my experience with getting covid, and my various opinions surrounding the experience – as a nurse and a mother. This is a trigger warning as I’m aware many folks have had terrible experiences with covid and I wouldn’t want to inflict a resurfacing of them. This blog is obviously anecdotal and please don’t take what I say as medical advice. This is just what happened to me, and likely many other pregnant nurses. 

It started a year ago, quite literally. I found out I was expecting and was keeping it a secret until my 12 week scan. This plan soon backfired, as there was news of a deadly virus entering the hospital. I had to declare my ‘risk factors’ to colleagues in order to protect myself and my unborn child. I initially was working on a covid free unit, which quickly became covid positive, along with the whole hospital. I ended up being moved to a different ‘safer’ unit on the other side of the hospital where I was less exposed to the virus. This ironically, was where I got exposed and became infected. 

By no means am I criticising my trust or the NHS. We did, and are still doing the best we can with the terrible amount of money and support the government has given us. I think we have strived and succeeded in providing amazing care to our patients in spite of the government.

I’d like to point out that the whole hospital was only provided with PPE the week before I caught covid, which was well into the crisis. Until then, we were walking round without masks and protection and only staff on covid wards were allowed the small allotted amount of PPE. 

Initially staff in covid positive or high risk areas were fitted with ‘FFP3’ masks, which are of high quality. These masks are supposed to prevent viral spores from entering the respiratory tract of the wearer, and prevent the wearer from transmitting spores too. These masks are designed to be disposable and only used once. Disgustingly, this policy got changed. They were then told to wear these masks all shift. Not because evidence on safety had changed, but because there was a shortage of PPE. 

Shortly after this, staff were then told that the fitted FFP3 masks were no longer needed for most circumstances (unless spore inducing like critical care), and so disposable surgical masks were dished out. These are also disposable and WERE single use, but staff were advised to only change if they became moist or soiled. Not to mention that these masks are known to not even stop influenza spores, never mind covid-19. It was these masks that I was given to wear the week before I contracted the virus. 

I still do not know who I caught it from. Likely a asymptomatic member of staff or patient. Although the ward I was sent to was technically ‘clean’ from covid, we did often have positive patients who slipped through the net. So that was also a possibility. Or maybe, just from being present in an infectious environment for such a long time, 40 hours a week. 

My symptoms weren’t abrupt like some people report. I had night sweats a few nights after my last shift before I went off sick. I put it down to hormones and the warming weather. I wish I had known, as I was likely infectious and had no idea as I felt fine otherwise. It was two days later when my partner and I were out for our allotted daily walk that I began to feel short of breath and so we went home. That night, I developed a migraine. It was a sharp ache behind the eyes. I knew something wasn’t right, as I was lucky enough to never suffer from headaches. Taking myself off to bed, I thought I’d sleep it off. 

Later that night I woke up with a roaring fever and a cough that wouldn’t stop. I promptly phoned in sick (as I was due in the following night shift), and later that morning I booked a test. 

Less than 24 hours later, I got a phone call from the hospital occupational health department that my test had come back positive. My heart sank. I cried on the phone to the sympathetic stranger on the side of the line. 

The following week I struggled to breath on a number of occasions, propped up on multiple pillows and frequently checking my oxygen level using my smart phone. The nights were long and difficult, as my symptoms progressed sequentially with sun down. I spent the next three weeks off work trying to get my strength back. I lost quite a bit of weight and it took a good while for my smell and taste to return. Not to mention, a longer standing breathless that followed. My first venture out the house at day 14 was a short trip to the local park. I remember having to sit on a bench just to get my energy back for the walk home. I did make it back to work eventually, and I ended up working up to my maternity cut off date (28 weeks). It was bloody hard though!

Thankfully, baby and I were monitored closely in the following weeks. With multiple scans and visits to the obstetricians. My little girl had multiple growth scans as she was measuring small in the centiles (fetus growth charts). Luckily, aside from being born quite small, my baby has had no knowledgeable long term effects from the illness. I am forever grateful for this, as I know some other mums aren’t as lucky. 

To this day, I still hold a great deal of contempt towards the government for putting so many people at risk. From all health care workers, to the general population. Too many have suffered and lost their lives when they shouldn’t have. My colleagues are still out there fighting to save people. Putting their own lives at stake for others, with little as a clap from the prime minister and his delegates. 

I hope by writing this I haven’t scared any expecting mothers or people who already know of the risks. My intention is to make people who have been effected by this horrible pandemic, feel they’re not alone. And those who still don’t believe it’s real, that it IS and is STILL reeking havoc on peoples’ lives.  I hope no other pregnant women have to suffer they way I did. And I remain optimistic, as for us, it could have been a lot worse. 

Stay safe! 

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