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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Pandemic pregnancy: Should you be worried?


In this edition of The Mum Diaries, Doha News speaks to Dr. Medhat Alberry, a Consultant Obstetrician at Sidra Medicine who specialises in fetal medicine and boasts a long experience in high risk obstetrics.

Pregnancy is an exciting time. It is one that is filled with celebration despite nine long months of anticipation. Mums-to-be generally go from feeling flutters to powerful kicks, all while counting down days till their babies are due in their arms.

Despite the positives that come with pregnancy, many mothers-to-be don’t have such a great experience, especially now during a global health crisis.

With so many unknowns, concerns have grown increasingly, and even women interested in getting pregnant are too worried to do so during a pandemic.

To put it simply, anxiety is in the air, and while these feelings are valid, it may bring relief to know women’s healthcare in Qatar is not being compromised – but don’t take our word for it.

Read also: Dear Mum, let’s talk about stretch marks

Cue Dr. Medhat Alberry, consultant obstetrician at Sidra Medicine’s maternal and fetal department, who says there is nothing much to worry about even with the virus.

“For those that are pregnant, healthy, with no known ongoing risks or illnesses, their response and prevention to COVID-19 is similar to other women,” Dr. Medhat told Doha News.

“A woman should go ahead and get pregnant during a pandemic if she wants to. She just needs to make sure she is in good health and follow all the necessary precautions,” he added.

Pregnant women are categorised as an intermediate risk group due to the way their bodies change, making them more vulnerable to infection. However, global research has shown how numbers for pregnant women who were infected with COVID-19 are not actually higher than the rest of the population.

Sidra Medicine provides ‘culturally-appropriate’ mental health intervention for pregnant mothers

In fact, research assures the majority of pregnant women have nothing to worry about if they follow the recommended precautions. As numbers continue to decrease in Qatar, restrictions are also opening up for pregnant women.

During the height of the pandemic and lockdown, appointments were held via phone calls, but health experts are now confident that women can attend in person.

“Pregnant women should follow the protocols of social distancing, avoid going out unless necessary, and wear their masks. It’s also important to regularly attend their hospital appointments. They should enjoy healthy foods, take their supplement, and exercise if they are able to.”

According to Dr. Medhat, it is also important to take vitamins as well as vaccines recommended during pregnancy. These vaccines can include the flu shot and the whooping cough vaccine, some of which can aid pregnant women avoid infections.

“Due to COVID-19, those that contract the infection and have low vitamin D levels have more of a risk of having respiratory complications. It’s important to check your Vitamin D levels and take Vitamin D as needed,” the doctor added.

Naturally, a soon to be mum might worry about catching COVID-19, with extra concern on infecting the baby.

While it is possible that a pregnant woman could catch the virus, according to Dr. Medhat, the chances that the baby might contract the virus are very small.

“If a pregnant woman has any concerns or symptoms, then it is necessary to contact a healthcare professional right away. It is also important to connect with the hotline, 16000, for advice,” Dr. Medhat added.

In terms of breastfeeding, rest assured, he said.

Read also: Spotlight on Mum: I never expected to see my newborn baby in a coma

“The benefit of breastmilk for the baby outweighs any potential risk.” Fortunately, there is no evidence that the virus could pass to the baby through breastmilk.

Mums-to-be should enjoy the pregnancy as they normally would, despite the pandemic, Dr. Medhat said. With Qatar’s strict precautionary measures in place, there is no real risk to pregnant women.

This, together with maintaining a strict health routine, including supplements, should shift the burdens that come with a global health crisis and ensure a ‘normal’ pregnancy a walk in the park.

Chereen Shurafa is a Doha based community counsellor, writer, and certified change coach. She is the founder of “Dear Chereen”, an online platform dedicated to mindfulness, mental health, and inspiration.

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