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Mother During the Pandemic: ‘I Gave Birth Wearing a Mask and Gloves’

CHISINAU, Moldova — The halls of Municipal Clinical Hospital No. 1 were eerily quiet when Nina Cristel gave birth to her second child. “The only sound was the babies letting us know from time to time that they wanted to be fed,” she says.

 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, mothers could not be accompanied or visited at the hospital when Cristel delivered there in April. And there were other differences from her first birth as well. “I gave birth wearing a mask and gloves,” she says. “All the staff who attended the delivery wore them too.”

 

Although there is no evidence to date that pregnant women have a higher likelihood of contracting COVID-19, the physical changes that women undergo during pregnancy can make them more vulnerable in general to severe respiratory infections. So it is essential for precautions to be taken to protect their health and that of their babies.

 

“The hospital was clean everywhere, with the ward disinfected twice a day and the doctors wearing masks, safety goggles and gloves every time they entered the room,” Cristel says.

 

UNFPA is working to make sure all health-care professionals in Moldova receive instruction in how to safely provide maternal and newborn care. In close collaboration with the World Health Organization and the Moldovan Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection, UNFPA recently supported an online training on COVID-19 response for 80 health-care professionals working in perinatal centres across the country. The training improved their knowledge about the epidemiological situation, prevention measures, and clinical management of COVID-19 cases among pregnant women, including severe complications that can be caused by the disease.

 

“Safe pregnancy and delivery depend on the proper functioning of the health system and the strict adherence to recommended procedures by all health personnel,” says Nigina Abbaszade, UNFPA Representative in Moldova.

 


Doctors in the maternity ward at Municipal Clinical Hospital No. 1 Photo credit @UNFPA Moldova

“The best thing is to remain calm and take precautions”

UNFPA Moldova also supported the creation of an online dashboard providing real-time data on cases of COVID-19, including among pregnant women. As of April 2020, 39 pregnant women in the country have been diagnosed with the disease: 27 have already been discharged and the others received treatment in a dedicated hospital in Chisinau for cases of mild or moderate severity. 

 

Still, for the 7,800 women currently pregnant in Moldova, the pandemic adds an extra layer of concerns: How will I give birth? Will it be safe?

 

Though Cristel acknowledges that the COVID-19 outbreak raises anxiety around pregnancy, she advises other expectant mothers to remain calm.

 

“The best thing to do is to apply the recommended protection measures, to get information from trustworthy sources, and to prepare for the arrival of the baby,” she says.

 

Prenatal preparations and postnatal changes

 

For Cristel, that preparation included shopping online for her postnatal needs as many stores were closed due to the pandemic, adding a bottle of disinfectant to the maternity bag she brought with her to the hospital, and driving in a private car on her delivery date as an extra precaution.

 

Following her discharge from the hospital, Cristel says that she and her husband, Grigore, continue to follow doctors’ recommendations, as does their 5-year-old daughter, Gabriela. They avoid contact with people outside their family, do not touch their faces when outside, frequently and thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water, keep their home well-ventilated and consume extra fresh vegetables and other healthy food.

The long hours they previously used to spend outside at the playground are now limited to one or two hours a day in their own yard, where Gabriela rides her bicycle or scooter and helps look after her newly arrived brother.

“My daughter shows a lot of wisdom and patience,” Cristel says. “Grigore and I are both organizing various educational activities at home with her: we colour, do handicrafts, read and cook. It’s been hard for me because I’m usually quite active, but I’ve learned to be more patient and to spend my time differently.”