By Dr Aruna Muralidhar
The winter chill, coupled with the current COVID-19 situation, may cause a lot of anxiety and concern for the care of pregnant women. There is anyway a general anxiety about infections increasing during the winter months. Influenza, common cold and other respiratory viruses also may be prevalent and cause confusion and anxiety. Although a zero risk of infection cannot be guaranteed, the article aims to suggest some tips for pregnant women to sail smoothly through winter.
Although the weather varies from city to city, for pregnant women, there are some common precautions that ought to be taken. Staying warm indoors, drinking plenty of water, and doing some exercise are some general recommendations. In the current situation, it would be prudent to be extra cautious with the precautions against the coronavirus. Hence, rules such as regular hand-washing, maintaining respiratory hygiene and social distancing, and avoiding any group activities or functions will have to go up one level.
A balanced diet in the winter months certainly plays a role in improving health, immunity and mood. Greens, ginger, gooseberry, garlic, dry fruits like almonds, etc., have various vitamins and minerals. Avoid fizzy drinks, coffee and tea, and instead opt for fresh fruits or juices and soups. Adequate water intake is important. Certain supplements would help boost immunity. Hence, the healthcare provider/obstetrician may be consulted for addition of vitamin C and vitamin D (the latter, if levels are low) to your medications list.
Personal hygiene must include regular skincare by frequently applying soothing oils and natural moisturizers. Dry, flaky, itchy skin is common because of the cold weather, as well as the stretching of skin near the abdomen, thighs and breasts. Regular moisturization with unscented natural products such as coconut or olive oil and moisturizing lotions will provide relief. Salon services — though not completely prohibited — should be more natural products-based. Hence, hair-colouring or hair spa and chemical facials must ideally be avoided. Epilation, if possible, can be deferred until after the delivery.
Wearing appropriately warm clothes and keeping the feet warm should help in improving blood circulation. Warm showers and foot baths can be considered for aches and pains.
Regular checks with the obstetrician must continue depending on the schedule planned by the doctor. If the pregnancy is progressing normally, the frequency of direct visits may reduce. Online consultations from the comfort and warmth of the home, alternating with direct checks certainly have a lot of advantages in terms of reducing the risk of COVID infection. If the pregnancy needs closer supervision and surveillance, hospital or clinic visits must continue with adherence to all the possible risk reduction measures. Ultrasound scans, blood tests and doctor appointments must ideally be clubbed together to avoid too many visits to the healthcare centre.
Other than the immunization against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, a vaccination against seasonal flu/influenza is recommended. In the current crisis, the flu shot becomes all the more important. This helps in two ways: avoiding flu symptoms leading to anxiety about COVID, and reducing the burden on healthcare system. Although the symptoms of flu and COVID are similar, the presence of one of these symptoms may point towards to COVID:
* High temperature
* A new, continuous cough
* Loss or change to sense of smell or taste
If these symptoms occur, it would be recommended to contact your healthcare provider within 24 hours and get the COVID test done. Since many are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, home isolation and care may continue.
Although there are apprehensions, a little care and plenty of common sense will help most pregnant women sail through the season with ease and comfort.
(The writer is a senior obstetrician and gynaecologist, Fortis La Femme Hospital, Richmond Road, Bangalore)
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