SEATTLE, Washington — Amid the COVID-19 pandemic pregnancy has instilled anxiety in millions of women globally, making pregnancy and childbirth a stressful and worrisome experience. Pregnant women everywhere are dealing with factors that they could not imagine nine months ago, like whether or not a hospital is a safe place to give birth. In a developing country like India, for example, pregnant women are experiencing various hurdles that cause complications for both mother and child.
4 Issues Pregnant Women in India Face Due to COVID-19
- Hospital Availability – As COVID-19 spreads rapidly throughout India, the country’s healthcare system is under pressure as it tries to foster thousands of patients. Not only are hospitals in India understaffed, but hospitals across India also have fewer open beds as cases grow. For example, as of June 12, Mumbai had only 14 intensive care beds for COVID-19 patients available for the city’s 12 million residents. For pregnant mothers in India, open hospital rooms have become almost impossible to reserve. As a result, hospitals have been redirecting or deferring pregnant women all over the country because there is not enough room to spare.
- Child Infection Risk – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends precaution measures such as washed and sanitized hands, cloth face masks and thoroughly cleaned baby bottles to reduce the chances of spreading the virus to newborn children. However, for new mothers in India proper sanitation and COVID-19 prevention equipment is typically hard to come by. In March, India experienced a mass shortage of surgical masks. The shortage resulted in a higher demand for masks and increased prices. Vendors sold N95 masks at the expensive rate of 500 rupees, whereas they would have normally cost around 150 rupees. Moreover, in the same month in India there was a mass shortage of hand sanitizer. As a result, pregnant mothers in India are finding it difficult to carry out recommended safety protocol measures that protects their children against COVID-19.
- Medical Cost – As of April 2020, India’s unemployment rate reached a startling 23.5%. Yet as more people lose their jobs, hospital prices in India keep increasing. Currently, some hospitals in India are charging up to 1,500 rupees a day just for a room, which is the cheapest available option in some parts of the country. Pregnant mothers in India, even those fortunate enough to have paid maternity leave, must pay overly-expensive medical bills out of necessity.
- Lack of Information – To date, there is very limited information regarding COVID-19, and many expecting mothers are unsure about how to keep their newborn children safe after birth. Accordingly, people everywhere are scouring the Internet for any kind of medical advice concerning newborn children and COVID-19. Many mothers are even wary about breastfeeding after The Lancet published a study that found traces of SARS-CoV-2 in human breastmilk. However, pregnant mothers in India cannot consult online resources for medical-related questions as easily as women in other countries. As of March 2020, only 40% of women in India have internet access. With such a small online presence, many pregnant mothers throughout India are likely unable to access credible and relevant information on the internet about child safety and COVID-19.
Every Mother Counts
Although pregnant mothers all over the world are experiencing fear and anxiety about childbirth during the COVID-19 pandemic, these women are certainly not alone. An organization called Every Mother Counts is an NGO that works to make pregnancy and childbirth as safe as possible for women around the world. In India specifically, the organization has a grant that supports female paralegals, who provide pregnant mothers in India with proper food and nutrition, ambulances and medical personnel, among other necessities.
On Every Mother Count’s website, there are numerous resources concerning COVID-19 and pregnancy as well as resources for maternity care providers amid the pandemic. With an organization like Every Mother Counts in their corner, pregnant women in India can be optimistic about delivering their children safely while overcoming the hurdles COVID-19 has added to their pregnancies.
– Maxwell Karibian