How pregnant women are protected from Covid-19

Dr Shastra Bhoora
Dr Shastra Bhoora

Dr Shastra Bhoora, the head of the Covid-19 team for obstetrics and gynaecology at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital, says she came up with a standard living operating procedure for her hospital to protect pregnant women and their newborn babies from the virus.

This procedure has been distributed provincially for other hospitals to adapt for their needs.

"Two weeks before [the pandemic came to SA] I initiated communication to start, preparing for the pandemic," she said.

Bhoora gave Sowetan some insight on what happens when a pregnant woman is admitted to a public hospital or health facility in Gauteng, depending on their resources.

This is what to expect when entering a maternity ward in Gauteng according to Dr Bhoora:

Bhoora said patients must wear a cloth mask upon entry of the hospital.

Patients are approached by healthcare professionals that are wearing PPEs and are screened through a questionnaire.

Patients are either ruled as low risk or high risk (having the virus) and taken to the relevant ward.

Low risk patients will consult with a doctor who will be wearing a surgical face mask, goggles, apron and gloves.

The routine examination will occur as usual. However, if a patient is high risk (suspected to be Covid-19 positive/confirmed), they will be put in what is called 'the red zone' which is demarcated for pregnant Covid-19 patients.

Bhoora said the patient will be provided with a surgical face mask.

Patients are approached by healthcare professionals in full PPE who will evaluate the severity of the Covid-19 and their obstetric needs.

After birth, if the mom and baby are well, then they will be kept together because it is better for them.

New mom must wear a face mask and clean hands frequently before picking up or breastfeeding the baby.

Isolation wards are prioritised for the mom and baby unit or social distancing is encouraged between the mom and baby unit and other high risk patients.

Bhoora said paediatrics ensure that the baby is well and encourage good practice to ensure the baby remains Covid-19 free.

Once it is determined that both mother and child are healthy, they will be discharged to self-isolate at home.

She said although there has been a concern on mothers not having support during birth; partners may be allowed in if they are screened to not have the virus.

"We cannot test fathers routinely for the virus because we simply do not have the capacity to do that. Tests are happening more in the private sector," said Bhoora.

However, she said mothers that are not able to have their partners' support are provided with midwives who can support them emotionally.

Meanwhile, midwife Daisy Kgokane, who has been in the industry for ten years, said she has already seen a change in behaviour with her clients.

"My clients are anxious especially about not being allowed to go to antenatal classes and not having their partners with them during doctors visits," she said.

Kgokane, who works at Genesis Maternity Clinic in Johannesburg, said this is to minimise the traffic in the facility.

"I've also seen mothers who are unable to work from home and feel vulnerable and anxious," she said.

Kgokane said she now spaces out appointments; she used to see six clients a day, but she now sees three.

She said masks are compulsary and consultation rooms are sanitised before each patient.

She said some of her clients are also choosing to give birth at home and this is allowed only if the mother and unborn baby are in good health.

"We make sure that the necessary precautions and support is provided before that happens."

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