Finding credible doctors in a standard hospital is a major challenge during this pandemic
Finding credible doctors in a standard hospital is a major challenge during this pandemic|Representational image
NATIONAL

Pregnancy amid COVID-19: Are babies even safe in the womb?

With COVID-19 cases increasing, there is a growing concern among pregnant women -- for their safety and that of baby -- to the fear of the unknown

Pritisha Borthakur

Guwahati: It's a fix -- a choice between finding care for their unborn babies and protecting them from a ravaging disease. This is the struggle of millions of pregnant women across the globe who have to live through a pandemic carrying another life within them, not knowing what the future holds.

If they could, they would suspend delivery and keep the child safe in the womb until the madness fades away and sanity returns to the earth. But they can't. Nonetheless, the question is, are their babies even safe in the womb?

In a really long time the world is united in the fight against a common enemy, the coronavirus pandemic. As the tally for coronavirus cases continues to increase, there is a growing concern among pregnant women; from their safety and the safety of the baby, to fear of the unknown. The pandemic continues to take its toll on different people in our society, in one way or another; and pregnant women are no exception. Worrying about the likelihood of having a smooth and safe delivery in the midst of the storm is ever so present.

The most effective way to prevent the virus is by promoting personal hygiene and ensuring all safety guidelines are followed judiciously
The most effective way to prevent the virus is by promoting personal hygiene and ensuring all safety guidelines are followed judiciouslyRepresentational image

Expectant mothers in India are the latest to lend their voices against the effect the pandemic is having on their lives. In some cases, the lockdown, put in place in an attempt to curb the virus, has kept some of these women from their main pillars of support, their husbands.

Twenty-eight-year-old Nisha Bhuyan, who is an expectant mother from Dibrugarh, gives a vivid picture of her situation: "I am part of the working class society, and I'm kept away from my family normally. But now, I continue to see the positive cases continue to rise, I panic even more because my husband is stuck abroad and there's no guarantee at the moment."

Nisha, who is eight months pregnant, also notes that finding credible and quality doctors in standard hospitals is a major challenge during this pandemic.

As a pregnant woman, constant visits to the doctor are very important for the health of the child. Most of these women have decided to stay indoors as part of the safety guidelines against the virus. They are worried about continuing their appointments and informative visits at hospitals for fear of getting the virus.

Monika Dasgupta, a 34-year-old pregnant woman based in Mumbai, says she's not stepping out of her house for anything, except for medicals. "I'm currently in my first trimester and this pandemic is really scaring me," she says. It is easy to see the worry written all over her face. "Mumbai where I stay is currently on high alert and this is really affecting me mentally, I'm grateful for my husband who has always been here for me," she adds.

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Medical experts all over India have called on women who are yet to conceive as well as those who already have conceived to be extra careful during the period of conception, especially with all the current happenings all around the world. Veteran gynaecologist Dr Geeta Baruah Nath, who is the head of the obstetrics and gynaecology department in Artemis Hospital in Gurgaon, has continually given tips to pregnant women on adequate steps to ensure the safety of their foetus.

Dr Nath says, "Prenatal visits to the hospital are extremely crucial in ensuring the health of both the foetus and the mother."

She adds that with the current pandemic, mothers have to be extra careful. Many obstetricians are either increasing the interval between visits or encouraging tele-health visits. She enjoins them to constantly wash their hands, use sanitizers, use a face mask and maintain social distancing when visiting their doctors. She says, pregnant women should also ensure to take their personal hygiene a tad higher.

But while the worry continues to mount, it is important to note that pregnant women should have no fear or worry about transmitting the virus to their foetus through one medium or the other. "It is highly unlikely that transmission of this deadly virus to the foetus is possible through breast milk and amniotic fluid. However, after the baby is born, there's a likely possibility the child may now get the virus through contact," she says.

Dr Nath also assures that hospitals and accredited birth centres remain the safest settings for birth even during COVID-19. Delivery should be at a tertiary care centre, with the facility of an isolation room, dedicated labour room, and an OT (operation theatre) with a multidisciplinary team approach, and intense maternal and foetal monitoring. “All women have the right to a safe and positive childbirth experience, whether or not they have a confirmed COVID-19 infection. However we’re carrying out COVID-19 tests on mothers frequently to ensure they get the right treatment on time.”

As they say, it is safer to promote prevention, especially from a dangerous adversary like the corona virus, rather than searching for a cure. Namisha Singh, yoga instructor at Delhi-based Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga, under Ministry of Ayush, highlights safety precautions and exercises for pregnant women during these trying times. She says it is important to create a balance between physical and mental health by adapting a healthy diet, practising yoga and breathing exercises, and maintaining good hygiene.

“Asanas can really work well; such as sukhshm vyayama for opening up the joints, tadasna, hastotanasana, and ardh ushtrasna for improving respiratory functions, bhadrasana for strengthening the back muscles and improving alignment of the spine, bhramari for improving concentration power, and dhyana for boosting immune system and strengthening heart,” she suggests.

Singh notes the most effective way to prevent the virus is by promoting personal hygiene and ensuring all safety guidelines are followed judiciously.

Until the world can fully combat and defeat the virus, expectant mothers should stop at nothing to adhere to the safety guidelines and regulations on social distancing so as to protect themselves and their babies. As much as staying indoors is important in this war against the corona virus, the place for pre-natals and important doctor's appointments should not be ignored. The hope is that the virus will pass whether naturally or through the commercialisation of a vaccine and normalcy will return.

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