As Jammu Kashmir is coping with the rising number of COVID-19 infections and deaths, over 1700 pregnant women have been infected with the virus in the Valley during the past seven months.
As per the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir, from 25 April to 17 October 2020, a total of 1718 pregnant women have been infected with coronavirus in Kashmir.
Of the total number of positive cases of expecting mothers, five were reported in April, 97 in May, 343 in June, 422 in July, 396 in August, 339 in September, and 111 in October.
As per the doctors, when pregnant women started testing positive in the Valley, it had a huge psychological impact on mother, family, and medical professionals.
Earlier, DHSK had ordered screening of pregnant women before the expected date of delivery to conduct delivery of these patients in a safer manner.
Doctors attribute an increase in cases to rise in testing, random testing of pregnant women, influx of travelers and the possibility of community spread.
Medical experts are concerned with pregnant women testing positive for coronavirus on random screening.
They have suggested strict precautionary measures.
Dr Suhail Naik, president of one of the factions of Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK), said when the first reported pregnant woman was operated in a Sopore hospital in Baramulla, they were keenly observing how mother and baby would behave in the postoperative period.
“Experiences teach us lessons and we observed nothing untoward happened. Many COVID-19 positive mothers have delivered babies and all of them are healthy,” he said.
The doctors said that the infection to pregnant women is not a good sign.
“Caution needs to be exercised at multiple levels to avoid catastrophic situations,” Naik said.
SKIMS Medical College and Hospital, Srinagar, which is a dedicated COVID-19 hospital, has so far admitted 268 pregnant women of which 265 have been discharged.
“The cases include 41 normal deliveries and 80 major surgeries. Initially, ours was the only hospital to start treatment for COVID-19,” Principal SKIMS Medical College, Dr Reyza Untoo said.
Dr Rifat Ara, Head of the Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, SKIMS Medical College and Hospital, Srinagar said all the coronavirus positive pregnant women admitted there were asymptomatic.
“Since COVID-19 test is mandatory now, positive cases are admitted here. It is very difficult to treat patients this time due to the coronavirus pandemic,” she said.
Dr Rifat said there was no specific risk factor related to pregnant women but in case of comorbidities like diabetes, heart diseases and hypertension, there are chances of risk factors.
“Till date, of the total pregnant women admitted and treated here no one among them needed high dependency unit care,” she said.
Dr Rifat said most of the pregnant women, who had tested positive, belong to rural areas adding that it had been seen that they weren’t taking necessary precautionary measures including social distancing and avoiding public gatherings.
“They should take extra precautions. They shouldn’t go for frequent or unnecessary visits to hospitals. People aren’t taking physical distancing seriously,” she said.
Medical experts opine that pregnant women are also facing mental trauma as they are isolated and away from their families which affects their mental health as well.
A female gynaecologist posted in Pulwama said there was fear and scare among the pregnant women.
“With the social stigma attached with COVID-19, it has a direct bearing on the psychology of these pregnant women,” she said.
Following the lockdown, the Lal Ded maternity hospital in Srinagar - largest maternity hospital in Kashmir - has been affected in terms of patient attendance in OPDs.
After pregnant women started testing positive for COVID-19 in the Valley, the hospital administration set up a separate facility, 400 metres from the hospital, in order to deal with emergency cases coming from red zones and for coronavirus suspects.
Dr Shabir Siddiqui, Medical Superintendent of the maternity hospital said till date they had admitted nearly 500 pregnant women.
“Of these some underwent C-section while many delivered after normal delivery,” he said.
He said those patients who test positive after intervention are sent to the dedicated COVID-19 hospital of SKIMS Medical College and Hospital, Srinagar.
In normal days, the Valley’s lone maternity hospital with 850 beds would receive 1000 patients in its outpatient department during 24 hours which has come down to 250.
Meanwhile, pregnant women who are at home have their share of worries following an increase in cases of pregnant women testing positive for the novel virus.
Doctors say that the trouble of expecting mothers may grow further with greater danger as cases were on a rise in Jammu Kashmir.
“It is a big mental, physical and psychological trauma for pregnant women. There are certain limitations because nobody was prepared for the disaster,” said Dr Mir Mushtaq, who is posted at district hospital Pulwama.
Again after delivery, these women cannot straight away go home.
“They are taken to a quarantine or isolation centre. They can’t take care of their babies. It is a difficult situation for them,” he said.
So far, over 1430 COVID-19 patients have died in J&K while more than 90,000 people have been infected.