Pregnant Women Are Terrified About ‘Freedom Day’

Mixed, late messaging, a lack of information on vaccine gaps and a decision not to prioritise pregnant women has left thousands worried, says Catherine Hufton.

pregnant women vaccine covid

by Catherine Hufton |
Updated on

Today, many lockdown restrictions will be lifted, including an end to social distancing and the enforcement of face coverings.

This news comes at the same time as infection rates and hospital admissions are increasing rapidly, leading many experts and MPs to describe the move as a ‘significant gamble’.

For many who are now double vaccinated, the lifting of rules may not seem that drastic. But what about those who are clinically vulnerable, such as pregnant women, who will no longer face protection in public spaces and their workplaces?

At nearly 37 weeks pregnant, I’m just over three weeks away from my due date and the threat of Covid has worried me immensely. I had my first vaccine back in May, as soon as the guidance changed and pregnant women were told they were now eligible and safe to receive it. My second dose was originally booked in just days before I was due to give birth, and I started to worry about missing it (if the baby came early) and how I’d protect myself in the meantime – especially as the British public started to enjoy life after ‘Freedom Day’.

Thankfully, I received a text last week moving my second vaccination date forward which was a welcome relief. I should now have a high rate of protection just as restrictions lift. But what about those pregnant women who were delayed in receiving their first vaccine due to confusion, misinformation, and just simply not being prioritised by the NHS?

Rhiannon is currently 30 weeks pregnant and worried about her and her baby’s safety over the coming weeks. “After months of playing by the rules and trying to research carefully, I suddenly find myself at the most vulnerable part of my pregnancy totally disenfranchised,” she says. “By the time I’d accepted the advice that pregnant women could be vaccinated and booked, I’m now looking at end of July for jab two, which means that post July 19th, I feel like I’m going to need to do some self-imposed isolation”.

“I cannot find any reliable information on whether it’s safer for me to bring the jab forward – so less than an eight-week gap,” she continues. “I’ve got no idea what to do and feel totally abandoned. I recently got made to isolate and lots of friends are having brushes with Covid. It all suddenly feels scary and too close for comfort – and ultimately the wrong decision could lead to complications like an early birth. I don’t know why it’s not even a consideration for the government to help with more guidance at the very least?”.

At six months pregnant, Ella Delancey Jones feels equally worried. “In light of the rising restrictions, getting the vaccine was important to me. I wasn't offered a second vaccine until 12 weeks after my first, and I have now pulled this forward to eight weeks exactly. I wanted to pull it forwards as I feel that the complete disintegration of all restrictions and relying on people to be 'mindful' is incredibly short-sighted. Offering a jab three months after the first for pregnant women isn't enough. Far from feeling happy and excited about having more freedom, I feel more isolated and worried about my own health and my unborn child - my anxiety is higher than it's ever been. For me, 19th July is the day that I will increase my safety precautions, not loosen them”.

Sadly, Rhiannon and Ella are not alone and arecent poll by Pregnant Then Screwed, with over 9,000 pregnant women, found that three-quarters of pregnant women in the UK feel anxious about the easing of restrictions. Even more concerning, only 21% have had two doses of the Covid vaccine while 40% haven’t had a single dose. This is thought to be due to pregnant women being the only vulnerable group to not being prioritised for the vaccine, in addition to dangerous misinformation spreading like wildfire across the internet.

Pregnant women across the country have reported scaremongering and judgement at vaccine hubs from misinformed staff, and even comparisons to the vaccine and thalidomide by midwives. This has led to many women not taking up the vaccine or delaying their appointment while they seek clarification, leaving many unprotected for a significant proportion of their pregnancy.

Prioritising pregnant women for the vaccine and offering clearer, sound guidance earlier is something that Joeli Brearley, founder and CEO of Pregnant Then Screwedhas been campaigning for throughout the pandemic. Joeli believes that the dangers to pregnant women and their babies have not been taken seriously enough by the government, leaving many women uninformed and at serious risk.

“We know that if a pregnant women is infected with Covid 19, her baby is twice as likely to be stillborn, is more likely to be delivered before term, and she is more likely to end up in ICU,” Joeli says. “With restrictions relaxing on the 19th of July and cases rapidly rising, this forces them into a lockdown of their own. We are being inundated with messages from anxious pregnant women who are now too scared to leave the house”.

One of the biggest risk factors, Joeli explains, is that very few pregnant women have had two vaccines. “In part, this is because vaccine hesitancy is higher amongst pregnant women due to a lack of easily accessible information on the risks and benefits for this group; but it is also due to them being the only vulnerable group who have not been prioritised for the vaccine,” she explains. “The Government has never offered an explanation as to why they weren’t prioritised despite repeated requests by Pregnant Then Screwed and Stella Creasy MP”.

And, while many women will have the option to work from home and self-isolate until they receive their second jab, or receive clearer information, there will be many others who won’t. Many pregnant women will still need to travel by public transport, work in public-facing jobs - where many will no longer be wearing masks - and put themselves continually at risk through no choice of their own.

It has never been more urgent for the government to prioritise pregnant women while providing them and their healthcare professionals with clear and consistent advice on the advised gap between vaccines. This will help women to make informed and confident decisions over the coming weeks.

If you are pregnant and worried about your safety at work, you can call Pregnant Then Screwed’s free advice line on 01612229879. You can also access information on pregnancy, breastfeeding, fertility and the vaccine here.

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