Pregnant women in Qatar are experiencing massive changes in healthcare due to the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing their fears for their own safety and that of their babies. Doha News speaks to one woman who experienced these changes.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, obstetrics and gynaecology healthcare services throughout Qatar have been forced to replace their usual physical checkups on pregnant women with phone calls. Now their checkups, which usually include an ultrasound and a hearing of the fetal heartbeat, are limited to a chat that lasts a few minutes to discuss any unusual symptoms.
Walaa Omar, who gave birth to her second child in May, talks to Doha News about her experience of giving birth amidst a pandemic.
“Some of the rumours spread about Corona really freaked me out. Seeing the pictures of patients and reading the news made me paranoid that I might catch it, especially when I was still carrying my baby,” says Walaa, who described the prenatal checkups as “worrisome and daunting”.
Nonetheless, she stayed in touch with her doctors throughout her pregnancy and built up a trusting relationship.
“The doctor would ask me the same set of basic questions at the beginning of our call to make sure there wasn’t anything urgent that needed any immediate response, then we would discuss my usual symptoms,” Walaa explains.
During the delivery itself, Walaa’s family members were not permitted to be around due to protective measures put in place by the hospital. Family visits after the birth were also restricted to allocated people and only for a few minutes a time.
Walaa signed out of the hospital just a few hours after the birth and was sent to heal in the comfort of her own house soon after the necessary check-ups on her and her newborn were complete.
“The mother’s anxiety is completely normal”
Ahmed Badreldeen is the Director of Feto Maternal Medicine Centre in Doha, Professor of Obstetrics at Weill Cornell Medical College, and previously the Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Women’s Hospital, part of Hamad Corporation. Doha News spoke with him about the challenges healthcare professionals are facing during these times. He stated that both monthly checkups and weekly checkups (for women at their 36th to 41st weeks) have been cut to nearly half, with the other half taking place by phone.
“The biggest challenge has been finding the right balance between decreasing the appointments and keeping the mother and her baby in good health,” he says.
According to Ahmed, a mother’s immunity weakens during her pregnancy, making her more susceptible to contagions. With that in mind, he urges all pregnant women to reduce their risk of exposure to viruses by avoiding socialising. However, he also addressed the rumours regarding COVID-19 and its correlation with pregnancy, explaining that positively-tested mothers can very safely give birth vaginally (if a Cesarean birth is not needed).
In Ahmed’s opinion, a mother’s anxiety does not distress her baby whatsoever and he assures worried soon-to-be-mums that their babies are safe.
“The mother’s anxiety is completely normal,” he says. “It’s part of her maternal emotions. Our main concern is assuring the baby is having a healthy progressive growth and a proper development of fetal organs.”“The mother’s insecurities, whether it’s the drastic physical changes or the hormonal imbalances, are also integral parts of her pregnancy journey,” he adds.
Doha’s Ministry of Public Health has published guidance for pregnant women to answer some of their frequently asked questions revolving around childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn health. Sidra Medicine has also allocated a page on its website to help guide and inform pregnant women.