Just today, the Department of Health announced the first confirmed case of the 2019 novel coronavirus in the Philippines. During times of a health crisis, when a lot of things are still unclear, it’s easy to panic and be afraid for ourselves and our children–inside and outside the womb.
A first step in combatting the spread of illness is to stay calm and in control. Let’s review some tips from the World Health Organization (WHO) on how to protect ourselves from the coronavirus, with focus on how pregnant and postpartum families can take extra care during these times.
1. Boost your immune system.
We always advise our students in our childbirth classes to boost their immune system through good nutrition, proper hydration, and adequate sleep.
Eat food that are rich in Vitamin C such as malunggay, citruses, ginger and many more. Avoid sugar as it lowers the immune system. You can easily make a warm drink of boiled ginger and sampaloc, drain it, then add kalamansi juice once it is not too hot. Take this as your morning tea with a bit of honey as sweetener.
Make sure that you are in deep sleep by 12 midnight to allow the body to follow its rhythmic restorative sleep for repair and recuperation, which happens in the early morning.
If you are pregnant, you may need to get up in the middle of the night to visit the loo, or if you are nursing a newborn, you may need to wake up softly every few hours. But strive to return to sleep as soon as you can. Do not turn on your white light, especially your phone’s, and go back to bed immediately.
2. Practice good hygiene. Avoid crowded places in the meantime.
Health officials keep emphasizing the need for proper hand washing and cough etiquette. Watch this video of proper handwashing using the WHO Technique.
When you need to sneeze or cough, cover your mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue (not your bare hands), then throw the tissue away immediately, and wash hands. Young children may have difficulty following good cough etiquette, so let’s guide them.
Let’s also limit our exposure to big crowds, especially when unnecessary. If you really need to go to the mall, hospital or to an event, don’t forget to wear a mask. This is especially important for pregnant and postpartum women, because our bodies are prioritizing our babies, thus resulting in lowered immunity. Partners and other caregivers to the mom and baby should wear masks too.
3. Always keep baby and mom together. Breastfeed exclusively.
For pregnant ladies, talk to your care provider regarding the Unang Yakap Protocol, especially the fourth step of non-separation of mom and baby. In the first months of a baby’s life, mom and baby have shared immunity through the practice of skin to skin and breastfeeding.
When the baby is exposed to pathogens, the baby sends signals through his/her saliva that touches the mother’s breast during breastfeeding. This phenomenon of the enteromammary circulation signals the mother to create antibodies which will be sent through the milk to the breastfed infant, thereby making your breastmilk also a form of medicine.
For moms with toddlers, keep breastfeeding to give your babies additional nutritional support.
4. Limit visitors during the postpartum period.
Need we say more? We can just share our baby’s cute photos through social media. 🙂
5. Avoid stress. Do not catastrophize.
Pregnant and postpartum women are often in a vulnerable emotional state due to hormones, and an overwhelming feeling of uncertainty that naturally comes with welcoming a newborn into someone’s life. Add to this the series of unfavorable events in the past weeks, our exposure to flash news alerts and news vigils about the coronavirus can lead to a lot of stress. Some would even end up catastrophizing–or having irrational thoughts and believing that something is far worse than it actually is.
If you feel that your consumption of information related to the coronovirus and other news is causing you extreme fear and/or sadness, sleepless nights, anxiety and the like, which may also manifest as physical pain, discomfort or illness, please find time to disconnect. Our babies–in the womb and in our arms–also perceive and experience our stress.
Instead of focusing on social media, find time for mediation and quiet. Slow and calming breaths will not only help with your worries, but will also be very good practice for your breathing during labor, and when you need to calm a crying newborn baby (and yourself) after birth.
Stay safe, everyone!