Pregnancy during pandemic

A 30-year-old pregnant woman was worried about giving birth at the Thimphu referral hospital as COVID-19 patients were kept at the ward. She even planned to go to the Gelephu hospital for delivery but decided otherwise.

 “As the country has not seen any community transmission so far, I decided to give birth in the national hospital.”

 Another woman, a 25-year-old woman who gave birth recently, said that she takes the newborn to the hospital for regular check-ups and doctors are very supportive toward the families. “The doctors always encourage us to bring our child for usual check-ups and they have told us to continue without delay.”

According to records with the Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema birthing center at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH), there were a total of 994 deliveries from March to June-285 in March, 236 in April and 223 in May and 250 in June.

Medical Superintendent of Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) Dr Gosar Pemba talked to Business Bhutan about how the COVID-19 can impact expecting women and their babies and said there is no evidence about a pregnant woman being at higher risk to COVID. “She can avoid or get COVID-19 depending on the exposure. There is no study done on whether pregnant women can get COVID-19 more easily and everything depends on exposure to the virus.”

 “A pregnant woman can protect herself from COVID-19 by taking all the basic safety measures like any other person such as frequent hand washing and using a mask in a crowded place,” he said, “If you can, please stay home and in case of emergency, practice social distancing and wear a mask.”

 Dr. Gosar Pemba said that if a pregnant woman experiences symptoms of respiratory illness then she should visit the health facility nearby and seek help. “Anyone who experiences symptoms like cough, fever, and soreness of throat should visit the flu clinic where the patients will be tested. If the test is negative then the patient will be given flu medicines and if in case it tests positive then the patients will be given treatment at the hospital,” he said.

 According to the Dr. Gosar Pemba, pregnant women must go to their regular scheduled appointments at the hospital. “Just now we have no cases inside the country and all the positive cases are the returnees from abroad who are in quarantine, so, there is no risk to pregnant women visiting the hospital.”

 Dr said the normal check-up schedule for the pregnant women is eight times but if there is a lockdown then the schedule will be scale down to four visits. “In case of lockdown, the check-up schedule will be done on an appointment basis which will prevent crowds.” Currently, the pregnant woman should visit the hospital normally.

 If a pregnant woman tests positive for COVID-19, then after the delivery of the child it is recommended that the child be separated from the mother to avoid the transmission of the disease to the newborn. 

 When a pregnant woman visits the hospital they are checked for fever and if they somehow test positive, they will be kept in an isolation ward that separates the positive pregnant woman from the other pregnant women.  

 For the positive COVID-19 pregnant woman, there is another room where they can be treated and give birth to the child, “A positive COVID-19 pregnant woman will not be giving birth in the same room where others who have not tested positive for COVID-19,” Dr Gosar Pemba said, adding, the challenge here is that the delivery of a child by positive COVID-19 patients has to be conducted in a different room.

 “The newborn babies are given all the immunizations that a child needs,” he said. For the safety of the mother and the child, pregnant women are expected to visit the hospital and those who are in an emergency should always contact health care.

 Dr Gosar Pemba said for protecting the newborn from COVID transmission, pregnant mothers should avoid visiting crowded places and stay home. “We encourage everyone to complete vaccinations for the newborn.”

Sonam Tashi from Thimphu