EXCLUSIVE: Covid 19 and Premature Babies: Why is there a need to be extra cautious? A medical expert opines
Covid-19 has been spreading wide and far across the world with deadly effects across a majority of people. It is not only the aged population who are at a high risk of developing complications from this deadly disease, but also the pregnant women who are at a major risk of having a premature delivery. According to various studies, pregnant women need to be extra cautious during this pandemic period as there are a high number of chances of premature delivery.
Premature delivery is the one in which the baby is born before the 37th week of pregnancy. The last few weeks of pregnancy (37-40) are the most crucial weeks as the baby’s brain and sense organs develop during this period and the baby also experiences a healthy weight gain during these weeks. If a baby is prematurely born, he/she is quite weak and is put under observation for some days.
Being COVID-19 positive during pregnancy can have ill effects on the foetus and it can be associated with preterm birth and even severe outcomes. When an expecting woman catches the infectious virus, her immune system turns on and fights with the infections. This often causes inflammation in the body, and inflammation is a risk factor for pre-term delivery.
How can pregnant women be extra careful?If a woman is pregnant then she should practise social distancing since day one of her pregnancy period. Wearing a mask and washing hands frequently is a must.She should avoid getting into a crowd and limit her outings.
She can get a flu shot as this will help her reduce the chances of getting an infection and would also keep her immune system strong.
It is very crucial for her to keep a check with the doctor if she experiences difficulty in breathing or any other symptom linking to Covid-19.
The family members living with pregnant women should also maintain social distancing and avoid gatherings.
Sanitise everything that comes from out of the house whether they are groceries, clothes, medicines, etc.
She should necessarily have a balanced diet including green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts and dry fruits, etc. Food rich in omega 3, iron and zinc are very beneficial during this time. She should stay hydrated throughout the day.
If a pregnant woman is showing any symptoms linking to Covid-19 at the time of delivery, then, the mother and the baby should be kept apart in isolation for a minimum of 14 days to avoid any possibility of transmission.
How to take care of a Preterm Baby during Covid-19?
Babies, who are prematurely born, are a risk of serious health issues. To avoid such issues, a premature baby is kept in NICU till the time he/she is fit for going home. The NICU provides specialised care for preterm babies.
The mother should not meet the baby if she’s COVID-19 positive. It is very important to keep the baby safe from the infections. Some other relative, who tests negative for Covid-19 should be with the baby till the time the mother recovers.
Although the mother cannot breastfeed her baby directly she can express her breast milk through a pump and handover the expressed milk in a bottle to the one who is taking care of the baby. The mother should strictly wear a mask and wash hands before expressing the milk and the bottle should be sanitised properly before use.
Do not allow anyone to meet the baby until he/she gets fit. Ask people to maintain social distancing even when the baby comes home. People should always wear a mask and sanitise their hands before holding the baby.
About the author: Dr. Aruna Kalra – Senior Gynaecologist and Obstetrician at CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram
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