VANCOUVER -- The anticipation of giving birth can be very stressful for any expectant parent. Add a pandemic and more contagious variants on the rise, and it can feel overwhelming. To help ease the anxiety, there are some steps you can take before welcoming a new family member.

Sandy Sicular is an ER doctor, so working from home to keep safe from COVID isn’t an option. To complicate matters, Sandy is also six months pregnant, which worries her wife Erin every time she leaves for work.

“She was very concerned, but we took all the necessary precautions,” Sicular says.

It's their second child, and giving birth this time will be totally different.

“Now as things ramp up again, it’s always in the back of our mind that Erin might not be able to join me or I’ll have to wear a mask while I deliver. We’re hoping that it doesn’t come to that point,” she says.

Catherine Roberts, Consumer Reports’ health editor, says if you’re pregnant, it’s especially important you take extra precautions against COVID-19.

“There is evidence that pregnant women who have the virus are more likely to need intensive care admission, ventilation and advanced life support answers,” Roberts says.

It’s important you keep up with your prenatal care, but you should talk with your doctor about ways to limit potential exposure to COVID-19 in advance.

“While you probably have to go to the doctor’s office for ultrasounds, it might be  possible for some of your other prenatal appointments to be done virtually,” Roberts suggests.

Prepare yourself for delivery by asking key questions, like where to go when you arrive at the hospital, how your experience might be different if you test positive for COVID-19 when you show up, and how many people can be with you during labour, which Roberts says can be especially important if you’re planning to use a doula.

“If your hospital’s policy means your doula can’t be in the delivery room with you, they can still help you, whether virtually or by phone on the day,” she says. “And beforehand, they can help you to clarify your own preferences and how to advocate for them in the moment.”

Sicular says all of this has been on her mind in the time leading up to her due date.

“With the first baby you don’t even think about these things. You’re just like, ok, we’re all going to go to the hospital, we’re going to have the baby and then grandma and grandpa -- both sets will be there when the baby’s out,” she says. “And this time, it’ll probably be weeks before this baby can meet some of its grandparents.”

And remember, because you may not be able to have family and friends come over to help once you’re home, talk with them to see how they might support you virtually or in other safe ways.

With files from Consumer Reports