Maternity nurses and doctors have been pulled from their ordinary duties and shipped off to crisis centers and more than a thousand hospitals newly designated for coronavirus patients. Smaller community hospitals that offer obstetrics and gynecological services are temporarily closed because of staff shortages.

The swift diversion of resources has left many soon-to-be mothers struggling to get access to the basic prenatal care usually provided in these facilities, often a pregnant woman’s first and only stop for medical attention in China. Reports in state media of infected mothers giving birth have heightened fears of passing on the virus to newborns, even though there is no clear indication that this has happened.

Women who have given birth since the outbreak also describe a lonely and sometimes terrifying experience of limited medical assistance in understaffed hospitals. New mothers cannot get vaccinations for their newborn babies because entire cities and provinces have shut down clinics. Well baby checkups are being postponed.