Egypt’s expectant mothers frightened, hopeful amid coronavirus pandemic

By Sarah M. Qassem

Cairo, Apr 27 (efe-epa).- Manar Ashmawy looks anxious, fidgeting with her hands as she sits on a chair at an obstetrics clinic in Cairo with a mask over her face.

The 28-year-old is waiting to see her doctor for her weekly checkup and ask him whether the coronavirus outbreak poses a risk to her and her unborn baby.

The fact that researchers are yet to unlock mysteries surrounding the respiratory illness and how it affects pregnant women and their fetuses adds to Ashmawy’s whole set of concerns.

“It is a scary time. I am set to give birth to a baby in the middle of a global pandemic,” Ashamwy, who is due to deliver her first child at the end of April, tells Efe.

“All our birth plans have changed due to this virus,” she adds.

“So much is unknown and none of our parents have witnessed a pandemic before.

“I cannot even turn to mine for advice on how to deal with such situation.”

While it is advised to limit the number of visitors at hospitals to one, Ashmawy explains that the thought of not having her mother with her through labour and delivery is unimaginable.

Older people are generally considered more vulnerable to the disease because their immune systems are typically not as strong as those of younger people.

Egypt has recorded 4,534 confirmed Covid-19 cases so far, with a death toll at 317.

More than 1,000 people have recovered from the disease in the North African country that has imposed a series of restrictive measures to curb the spread of the virus.

Almost all pregnant patients of Dr Mostafa Selim, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the Faculty of Medicine at Cairo University, ask him about the precautions needed to protect themselves as well as their babies from the disease.

“Although pregnant women are considered immunocompromised, we do not really know yet if they are at increased risk to have severe symptoms than anyone else and there is no evidence of fetal infections so far,” Selim tells Efe.

The 57-year-old adds that expectant mothers should follow the usual preventive actions to avoid infection, like washing hands, avoiding physical contact with others and going out in public.

Hospitals also have taken many precautions to protect expectant and new mothers, according to Selim.

He continues that “women giving birth must wear a mask in the delivery room now,” adding all nurses and healthcare assistants working in direct contact with patients are obligated to cover their faces with masks and face shields to offer more protection from fluids that may contain the virus.

When asked about the safer type of delivery during the pandemic, Selim argues that no evidence has been found to suggest that a scheduled cesarean birth is better, although it would limit face-to-face contact with a larger number of health care providers as it is planned ahead of time.

Hospital stays for those giving birth vaginally last mostly beyond eight hours, which leaves women exposed to close contact with multiple shift-swapping nurses and resident physicians, according to Selim.

The impact of the virus that has spread globally from China does not trouble Mariam Abdelhamid and her husband, who have been self-isolating with their son since he was born in March.

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