Dr. Hilal Al Rifai, Medical Director of Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Women’s Wellness and Research Center (WWRC) says the COVID-19 pandemic has understandably created stress and anxiety for pregnant women in the country. He says while pregnant women are not thought to be more susceptible to serious illness from the virus, they should take prevention very seriously.
“We understand that all pregnant women will feel a great sense of anxiety about their health and that of their unborn baby. In general, pregnant women are more susceptible to illness than non-pregnant women, as pregnancy decreases the immune system’s response. Therefore, it is understandable that pregnant women may feel concern and confusion. However, from the information we currently have, it does not appear healthy pregnant women who contract COVID-19 will be more severely unwell than the general population,” said Dr. Al Rifai
Dr. Al Rifai noted that while healthy pregnant women do not appear to be more at risk for serious complications, should they contract COVID-19, it is nonetheless important that they take every precaution to prevent infection from COVID-19 and all other viruses.
He also cautions that pregnant women who have a severe chronic illness, such as heart, lung, or kidney disease are more at risk for severe COVID-19 illness (similar to other patients with chronic illness) and should speak to their doctor or midwife to ensure they are taking all necessary precautions.
“If you are generally healthy and having a healthy pregnancy, there is no need for panic, but you should still do everything possible to prevent infection. Frequently wash your hands, using soap and water and washing for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol,” said Dr. Al Rifai.
“Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily, including tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, phones, toilets, faucets, and sinks. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Put distance between yourself and other people. Avoid crowds and public places,” added Dr. Al Rifai.
Dr. Al Rifai says the bottom line is that there is still a lot that is unknown about COVID-19, particularly as it pertains to pregnancy, but it is known that practicing smart hygiene and safety procedures, including social distancing, can help prevent COVID-19 infection.
“I would advise all pregnant women to be vigilant about hygiene and safety, but they should not let fear overwhelm them. Keep up with COVID-19 updates from reputable sources and don’t forget the basics, like getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet. Remember that your doctor or midwife is there for you. Their top priority is to protect you and your growing baby, so you should never hesitate to reach out with questions,” added Dr. Al Rifai.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has established a dedicated website (www.moph.gov.qa) to provide the public with updates on the current situation as well as information on how to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. A hotline (16000), which is available 24-hours a day to answer COVID-19 related queries, and an educational social media campaign have also been launched, with the MoPH, HMC, and Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) sharing infographics and videos through their social media channels.