New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: As COVID-19 cases started rising across the country, the health facilities and prenatal care for pregnant women could no more be prioritised as before. In this episode of Jagran Dialogues, Pratyush Ranjan, senior Editor, Jagran New Media interviewed Dr Manju Puri, Head of Department, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on pregnant women and prenatal care.

Below are the excerpts from the interview;

Q1. UNFPA predicts there could be up to 7 million unintended pregnancies worldwide because of the crisis, with potentially thousands of deaths from unsafe abortion and complicated births due to inadequate access to emergency care. Did you see or notice such cases in the last year?

Dr Puri: Unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortion cases have increased a lot during the pandemic. We have seen lesser deaths of children and women due to COVID and more due to the situations which emerged in managing the COVID crisis, such as a lockdown. All of this led to the disruption of many care facilities which the women used to get during pregnancy. Another thing has been the fear factor that people didn't want to visit hospitals for contraception. The delivery rate in the hospitals decreased. People started to have births inside their homes. The home visits of ASHA workers were also stopped and by implication the availability of contraception was decreased in the lockdown. So we had a situation when the chances of unwanted pregnancy really increased. Therefore unwanted pregnancies happened and even after that, there was a delay for safe abortions. Even if they visited hospitals, the availability of abortion facilities was really less due to the COVID situation. People just took pills from a medical store. There was excess bleeding sometimes and we saw many young people dying like that.

Q2. Does Covid have any impact on pregnancy-related complications? A user has a question she had a miscarriage after 11 weeks and there were absolutely no complications. In the 11th week of pregnancies, one day doctor noticed during an ultrasound that a heartbeat was missing. Later, even the doctor didn't find any abnormalities and complications. A few cases of Covid was there in the family.

Dr Puri: One thing that has emerged in the COVID crisis when it comes to pregnancy, is that there have been cases of the premature birth of babies. That number has definitely increased. As far as abortion-related complications are concerned, we haven't found any evidence so far which suggests that mild covid may result in abortion or if someone in the home has covid, that may result in abortion. However if the mother herself had severe COVID, and if it had led to ICU hospitalisation or high-grade fever, that may lead to abortion. Without serious symptoms, there's no link of covid with abortions as such.

Q3. Those women who were Covid+ and now pregnant or those who were pregnant and become Covid+ but recovered. What's your suggestions to them to be safe physically as well mentally.

Dr Puri: 90 per cent plus women if they get infected by COVID, so like the rest of the people they have mild symptoms. Its impact, therefore, is least seen in both the mother as well as the child. Second, if the mother has covid when she's pregnant, there are very few chances of its transmission to the baby. However, sometimes it may happen that if a mother gets infected by COVID within two weeks of delivery, that may transmit into the child but we don't have any strong evidence in its favour so far. But the direct transmission of COVID from a mother to child during pregnancy is rare. The better part is that if a mother gets vaccinated then the antibodies produced can protect the child from COVID. That's the positive effect. So pregnant women shouldn't be anxious about it if they are healthy after recovering from COVID. 

Q4. Gender-based violence was a “pandemic within a pandemic” without open reporting of such cases. Did you find any such cases? What's your message for the women to deal with such issues and to be safe from any physical and mental harm? Gender-based violence has distinguished the pandemic [from other crises] because of the lack of movement and people being trapped in abusive situations.

Dr Puri: Gender violence incidences too have increased. If we see the basis of it then the root cause of gender-based violence is stress. There are situations when the male members of the family have lost their jobs. They don't know when they will get back the jobs. In female partners, the situation is that the work at home has increased, children are staying inside homes. So if you see, every member of the family is stressed. That is something that has created the environment which led to this situation (of gender-related violence). Another problem is addiction-related problems. That if they did not get their addiction sorted during the lockdown, there will be problems due to that as well. Some people started going for addictions due to stress. In women, premenstrual tensions have increased. Previously they could go out and talk to people. Since everyone is home during covid, all of that has together led to this situation.

Watch the full interview:

Posted By: Talibuddin Khan