Saima Sultana planned on enjoying her pregnancy right from the moment the doctor confirmed the news.
"I remember buying a lot of gender-neutral clothes in the beginning and loading myself on ice-cream, and then COVID-19 happened!" remembered Sultana.
The announcement of the first confirmed coronavirus case, on 8 March, caused a lot of panic amongst citizens, especially pregnant mothers.
"We just didn't know what was to happen to us! Because doctors, including mine, requested to forgo regular visits to their chambers unless absolutely necessary; this, they did to prevent any sort of transmission of the virulent disease. And this very fact that I couldn't meet my gynaecologist whenever I wanted, actually made me more anxious," said Sultana.
Syeda Marzia Farhana, a busy mum of three children, expected the delivery of her fourth child amidst the pandemic.
"As this was my fourth pregnancy, with a previous case of C-section delivery, I was worried of the risks involved. However, the doctor calmed me throughout the gestational period, and we were connected all the while via telemedicine. I could even reach my doctor at 2AM, if necessary," recalled Farhana.
Visits to the hospitals disclose it is much more difficult to wait-out for labour during the pandemic because the patients have to wear additional masks, adding to their already existent breathing difficulties.
"At one point, I couldn't take it anymore," Sultana said.
Dr Syeda Husna Akhter, retd. senior consultant, gynae and obstetrics, B.M.C.H and currently practicing privately at a local hospital in Dhanmondi, explained to us the extra precautions taken during the pandemic.
"I request all pregnant patients to come directly to the OT and actively discourage staying at the hospital after the first day, unless absolutely necessary — this precaution is taken to prevent any sort of cross-infection between an infected patient and the new mother and baby.
The recovery process is mostly done at home, based on what we advise the patient and the caregiver. I think the process is daunting to any new parent, but if properly followed, does not pose as any sort of risk," the doctor said.
Getting to the hospital was also an overwhelming task during the complete lockdown. Most public transport options were out of reach and ambulances were in short supply. Even though the situation regarding transport has been relaxed now, due to the lift of the ban, there still remains a lot of preliminary tasks such as arranging for a donor etc. All that has to be managed in a pandemic when even loved ones are discouraged from visiting each other.
Naima Sultana had a healthy pregnancy all throughout the pandemic and gave birth to a baby girl in the first week of June. It was only after the birth given birth did she realise that her new born had a yellow tinge to her skin. Her daughter's bilirubin was over the normal, demanding immediate treatment, which meant a prolonged stay at the hospital.
"I was scared out of my wits every time the nurses took the baby away for phototherapy. I just didn't know what to do," she said.
Wishing to forget every bit of the ordeal, she added, "I am thankful to God those terrible days are over, and I am safe at home with my baby."
Salma Begum, a nurse from a renowned hospital in the city, disclosed the special precautions taken when dealing with patients during the pandemic, especially in the neonatal and the pregnancy ward.
"We have to wear double masks, double gloves, and sanitise every time we enter the ward. All the furniture is frequently sanitised to prevent transmission of infection. Blood donors are requested to get tested for COVID-19, as are the patients themselves. Extra precautions are also taken at the OT, to ensure safety to the patient," she said.
Up until now, we discussed cases where pregnant mothers were scared of acquiring the infectious disease. But what happens in the case of a COVID-19 positive mother?
Dr Syeda Husna Akhter spoke of the possibilities of transmission of COVID-19 between mother and child, saying, "I have not seen anything like this as of yet. Plus, there is very little data to support the theory of a vertical transmission of the coronavirus between a 'COVID positive' mother and baby. However, there is a high chance that an infected mother may transmit the disease via respiratory droplets during breastfeeding. And hence, in that case, expressed milk is the best way to abide by the system."
According to WHO reports, the international public health agency supports breastfeeding within an hour of birth, even by COVID-19 positive mothers, with an added emphasis on respiratory and hand hygiene.
Dr Akhter said that COVID-19 was an evil that is here to stay much longer than expected. So, it is a condition that needs to be incorporated into our daily lives.
"This disease, however infectious it may be, shouldn't pose as a concern as long as we are abiding by all the necessary precautionary measures to prevent it. New mothers need to relax, and not let COVID-19 bother them too much, and follow the advice of their gynaecologists diligently, and the rest of the story will be as wonderful as expected," the doctor said.
Photo: Studio Picturerific
Wardrobe: Mére Maternity Wear
***certain names have been changed to protect their identities.