Coronavirus Pandemic colors Hong Kong pregnancies and deliveries with fear and loneliness

Asia, where the pathogen emerged in December, faces a second wave of the epidemic, causing women to give birth in very unusual conditions.

Coronavirus Pandemic colors Hong Kong pregnancies and deliveries with fear and loneliness
Hong Kong, China. - Jamie Chui spent practically her entire pregnancy confined in Hong Kong. First to avoid tear gas from anti-government demonstrations and then due to the coronavirus. Now, she prepares for the toughest test: childbirth without her partner next to her.
The coronavirus has infected more than a million people worldwide. At present, Asia, where the disease emerged in December, faces a second wave of the epidemic, which makes women have to give birth in very unusual conditions.
China, like Hong Kong, put in place some of the strictest measures in the world to prevent the spread of the virus in maternity wards. To the point of prohibiting in public hospitals that the couple is present during childbirth or goes to the room, once their son or daughter is born.
In addition to the fears that arise with pregnancy, future mothers must also dose and control fears of contagion and deal with the prospect of childbirth without a family member at their side, at a time when health personnel are overwhelmed by the great number of COVID-19 cases.
"For me, the most stressful thing is that hospitals prohibit visits and the father's presence at delivery," says Jamie Chui. "I will have to fight alone."
"Frankly, I'm scared. But what can I do?"
Pregnancy at home
Jamie Chui became pregnant as Hong Kong was in the worst political crisis since its 1997 recession, with almost daily and often violent protests denouncing a loss of liberties in the city, under increasing influence from the Chinese central government.
Fearing clashes between security forces and radical protesters, and fear that tear gas could harm the fetus, she decided to stay home. And today it is still confined, but because of the coronavirus.
"I spent most of my pregnancy at home," says the 33-year-old photographer.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the couple accompany the woman during childbirth in their "Checklist for the safety of childbirth", published prior to the outbreak of the epidemic.
In New York, some hospitals also attempted to institute these measures, but met with strong rejection. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an order that no woman give birth alone after a citizen initiative collected 600,000 signatures in this regard.
In Hong Kong, women who can afford it, give birth in private hospitals paying HK $100,000 (€ 12,000), where the couple's presence is allowed.
"I had to prepare myself mentally and physically to give birth without my husband's support", explains Lidia Inês Cardoso Ribeiro, 36, who claims that she asked the hospital authority to reverse its decision.
"All women should have the right to choose whether or not they want to have someone by their side," she stresses.
Labor more difficult
For Christina Kimont, a Canadian midwife residing in Macau, the absence of a family member fuels women's nervousness.
And this implies, according to her, "longer and more difficult deliveries, and the probability of an increase in" invasive surgical procedures.
Irma Syahrifat, who accompanies pregnant women in Indonesia, says that in some consultations, the doctor was equipped with a full protective suit, which accentuated the stress of women.
Indonesian hospitals continue to authorize the presence of the couple, but according to Syahrifat, it would be necessary to prepare mentally in case this would not happen tomorrow, because the rules do not stop changing.
Studies on the impact of Covid-19 on pregnant women are still very limited. But the WHO hinted that they are not more vulnerable than the rest of the population.
However, a study by Chinese scientists who followed 33 pregnant women in Wuhan, where the epidemic began, showed that there are cases of transmission of the virus, as three newborns tested positive.
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