The coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has increased the risk of prenatal anxiety and depression, say experts. Hence, it is important to strengthen support for women and reduce their fear and anxiety. “Pregnant women are more vulnerable to infection with COVID-19 compared to the general population, based on the incidences of corona-affected patients in China and knowledge of viruses that cause severe respiratory illness,” said Dr Shweta Goswami, senior consultant, gyneacologist and IVF specialist from Jaypee Hospital and Zeeva Clinic, Noida.
But the anxiety that has built up around pandemic is getting worse day by day. Smriti Arora (name changed), a 33-year-old who is full-term pregnant and due any day now said, “I am too worried about my baby catching the virus. I am being extra cautious and not only following my doctor’s advice but also ensuring social distancing in my house. Despite all that, I have to admit, the anxiety does get to me.”
Sumit Sharma said his wife Ritika, who is six-months pregnant, is currently managing without routine check-ups to stay indoors and be safe. “The current scenario about pandemic is very stressful for our family. There’s fear and the fact that no one knows how long it will last, no vaccine has been found yet, and the enormity of its effect on us makes us more fearful,” he said.
Dr Goswami advised pregnant women to avoid routine antenatal checkups if they are not in the category of high-risk pregnancy or in the last trimester of pregnancy.
Amid all the chaos surrounding the pandemic, medical experts say that there has been an increased demand for elective caesarian sections. Dr Goswami explained said “a lot of pregnant women have been requesting us for early C-sections, because they are scared of involuntarily contracting the coronavirus and passing it on to their unborn kids”. “For some reason, they think they can protect their children better once born. My advice has been to wait till they are full-term, 39-40 weeks, as a baby is any day safer in the womb than outside,” she remarked.
No nanny or house help available
It’s standard practice in most households to hire external help for postnatal care, including herbal oil baths for the mother and child. “We had found a nanny to help me after the delivery, including the oil massages for both of us, and other needs of the child, but with the ongoing virus, I am not sure if we are comfortable in calling her home or maybe she also won’t be able to come anytime soon,” said Arora.
Limited post-delivery care
Even new mothers are being sent home as soon as possible after delivery. “Yes, new mothers are being sent home within 24 hours of delivery to avoid infections. Many are still processing these sudden changes. Normally, we would have kept them for a few days, depending on the type of delivery, which also allowed us enough time to help them understand the needs of the newborn. But these are extraordinary times, and we cannot afford those luxuries. Even routine scans and consultations have been halted for women in earlier stages of pregnancy,” said Dr Goswami.
Take necessary precautions
The precautions for pregnant women are more or less the same like washing hands regularly and effectively with soap, avoiding large gatherings, social distancing, adequate rest and balanced diet. Apart from that, foetal kick count should be checked daily and online routine checkups should be considered as much as possible.
“Be very aware of the potential symptoms of coronavirus and also the regular flu so that the pregnant women can call their health provider if they have any. Additionally, if you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you should monitor your own temperature and be especially aware of any respiratory symptoms. Your doctor can advise the best steps for care and testing,” informed Dr Shobha Gupta, medical director and infertility specialist from Mother’s Lap IVF Centre.
A study of nine pregnant women in their third trimester in Wuhan, China, who were infected with COVID-19, showed that none of their babies was affected by the virus.
“The virus was not present in amniotic fluid, the babies throat, or in the breast milk. The risk of passing the infection to the foetus appears to be probable but very low and there is no evidence of any foetal malformations or effects due to maternal infection with COVID-19,” added Dr Gupta.
Remedies to boost a pregnant mother’s immunity
Stock up on C
Vitamin C is by far the most powerful and important vitamin when it comes to supporting the immune system, As with any vitamin, your body is more easily able to absorb vitamin C when the source of the vitamin is the food you eat rather than a capsule. Therefore, it is ideal to add foods rich in vitamin C to your diet — like fruits, broccoli, kale, and strawberries.
Include probiotics in your diet
Yoghurt is the best source for probiotics to add to your pregnancy diet. Probiotics aid your body in digestion and colon detoxification, both of which have an impact on keeping your immune system healthy. Yoghurt has other pregnancy health benefits, too, like a high serving of calcium and vitamin D.
Take 3-4 cups of water in a saucepan and add a teaspoon each of cumin seeds, coriander seeds and crushed pepper. To this, add some turmeric and three cubes of ginger chunks. Bring the mixture to a boil. Let cool. Strain and drink.
Neem flower drink
Boil neem flowers in a pan with three cups of water. Turn off the flame and let it cool. Add lemon juice and a teaspoon of honey and drink.
However, follow these remedies only after consulting your doctor.
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