Experts on how to navigate a safe pregnancy during the pandemic
In July this year, Mumbai’s BYL Nair Hospital achieved a feat – the team delivered the babies of 500 Covid-19 positive mothers. That was also the time when the country was in the fourth month of the nationwide lockdown while struggling to deal with the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic. Nair hospital was one of the places which gave hope to expectant mothers in these unprecedented times. While the world and India are still grappling with the virus that has turned lives upside down, women who are all set to bring another life into this world face an uphill task – to nurture a healthy baby in their womb and simultaneously take care of themselves physically and psychologically.
According to Dr. Jayasree Sundar, Director, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Madhukar Rainbow Children’s Hospital, India is experiencing a ‘baby boom’. She says even women who were finding it difficult to navigate a safe pregnancy due to this pandemic from home. The virus is still very new and leaves many questions open-ended. The major one continues being — if pregnancy can be or should be planned during this pandemic.
Planning for pregnancy:
“No sufficient data is available to support whether pregnancy can be planned or not during a pandemic. Some studies have shown that pregnant women are at an increased risk of complications. However further trials have shown that increased risk is only in patients who have co-morbidities like diabetes or other diseases. No definite effect of the fetus being affected like the Zika Virus has been confirmed with COVID-19. Under proper medical supervision, you can plan your pregnancy says Dr Manisha Arora, Senior Consultant, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Max Hospital, Gurugram.
As India continues with its festive mood with the wedding season and Christmas upon us, expectant mothers need to be more cautious to keep them and their baby fit during this roller coaster ride. Experts show us the way ahead in which they can navigate a safe pregnancy in this pandemic.
Reduce hospital visits
Dr Sundar recommends as few hospital visits as possible. She says, “Expecting parents should opt for video consultations as much as possible unless it becomes very important to go to the hospital. For example, the twelve-week ultrasound is very important so we call mothers then and follow up with emails and video consultations.” Rainbow Children’s Hospital did the first delivery of a COVID-19 infected mother on June 10. Ever since, the hospital has done many deliveries of mothers infected with the virus.
Mask is mandatory
There are no findings yet to show that pregnant women are more vulnerable to Coronavirus. However, hospital visits during pregnancy increase the risk of mothers contracting the virus. It is therefore mandatory for them to be extra mindful about wearing the mask. Dr. Sundar stresses the importance of using a mask saying, “Your mask is a kavach, don’t touch it or remove it while outside. Don’t touch your face, eyes, and ears. Gargle whenever you go home from outside. The key is in handwashing and maintaining social distancing.” By doing all these you can navigate a safe pregnancy in this pandemic.
Dr Arora explains, “Pregnant women have to follow the same precautions as having been advised for the general public which include wearing a mask, maintaining social distance, and wherever social distancing is not possible, wearing a fabric mask. Mothers who are COVID-19 positive can breastfeed after wearing an N95 mask. They are also likely to contract the infection from healthcare professionals. So, while visiting ultrasound clinics and hospitals they have to be extra careful and should take a bath after visiting these areas.”
Boost Your Immunity
There’s always been an extra emphasis on pregnant women taking care of their immunity to ensure a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby. It’s natural then that expecting mothers need to be even more careful during the pandemic. Dr. Arora says, “It is essential to eat food rich in Vitamin C such as lemon, citric fruits, gooseberry, broccoli, and berries. It helps to keep the immune system strong. Curd and yogurt are the best sources of probiotics that help in detoxifying the body and therefore boost your immune system. Take Vitamin D supplements regularly.
Some spices like cumin seeds, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon when taken in moderate amounts are helpful to build immunity. Use of neem has also been known to increase immunity.” Dr. Hrishikesh Ashok from Naad Wellness adds, “Pregnant women should make a decoction with ajwain (carom seeds) and jaggery and gargle with it. One should not drink it though. It’s also advisable to do ajwain water steam inhalation. Fumigation of the room with aparajitha dhooma choornam helps improve the mother’s respiratory health.”
Just eight months ago, one often heard words like ‘babymoon’ when parents-to-be travelled to spend time together. The expecting mother was pampered with gifts, surprise parties, eating out and vacations. Things have changed now. Vulnerable people are advised to avoid travel and maintain limited interaction with people. Amidst all this, it’s a challenge for expecting mothers to stay happy. Dr Sundar says, “There’s a lot of anxiety around because pregnant women no longer have the same support system. Baby showers are replaced by Zoom parties as everything has shifted to the virtual medium now. In these circumstances, I advise my patients to listen to calming positive things.”
Dr. Arora adds, “It is prudent to make the mother emotionally strong throughout the pregnancy by giving the right information, avoiding negative news, media, and information which creates fear. Feeling of neglect, fear, and guilt because of the disease should be handled with caution by the family through constant support and talking frequently to the pregnant women.” Time-tested remedies like yoga too always work. Dr Ashok says, “Meditation is advised during this time to calm the mind and not get stressed due to the pandemic.”
Go slow on the kadha
Never have Indians ever learnt the importance of the humble kadha(water boiled with medicinal herbs) as during these times. It’s natural then that expecting mothers too want to safeguard themselves with this time-tested remedy. However doctors caution against drinking kadha during pregnancy as the ingredients can cause too much heat in the body. Dr Sundar advises instead, “Sip warm water during the day and you can add honey and pepper to your water.”