Doha, 24 August, 2020: One of many innovations introduced at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) to help ensure patients are provided with the same care experience they received before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is being applauded by one woman who tested positive for the virus while pregnant.
HMC has implemented stringent infection control measures across all its facilities, including the country’s largest women’s tertiary hospital, the Women’s Wellness and Research Center (WWRC), as part of ongoing efforts to protect patients and staff from the spread of COVID-19. Thanks to a new guideline for breastfeeding and safe handling of breast milk among COVID-19 positive patients introduced at the WWRC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), women have been able to safely provide their babies with breast milk regardless of their COVID-19 infection status.
Mrs. Abigail Magallanes, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 while 32 weeks pregnant, says she was initially worried about her unborn baby’s health. She says she was anxious about how her pregnancy would be affected by any required medical treatment and says that she was concerned about spreading the virus to other members of her family.
“Upon learning that I had COVID-19, I became really worried about my baby and about how my pregnancy might be affected by the treatment I would require. I was also worried about other members of my family because I felt they might be positive too,” recalled Ms. Magallanes.
“I had planned to exclusively breastfeed my baby, so before I gave birth I informed my colleague who was gifted by God with a lot of breast milk that I would need her assistance to get breast milk for my baby. She agreed (to donate some of her breast milk to my baby). However, when I gave birth, I was in a medically-induced coma so she informed my husband of our agreement and he coordinated with our family friend - a lactation consultant - who was able to help ensure the breast milk was donated to my baby,” explained Ms. Magallanes.
“I made this arrangement because I knew from my previous births that a breast milk shortage may be an issue for me and I knew my COVID-19 positive status might also prevent me from breastfeeding initially. I did not want to deny my baby her right to exclusive breastfeeding. I’m happy to report that my baby is growing well and I am continuing with my physiotherapy and occupational therapy at home. I continue to receive support from HMC while I recover at home,” added Ms. Magallanes.
Mrs. Magallanes also applauded the efforts of medical and nursing teams at Hamad General Hospital’s Medical Intensive Care Unit and Qatar Rehabilitation Institute’s Female Rehabilitation Unit.
“The teams at both hospitals did a great job taking care of me. I am thankful to them for being with me and for saving my life. They are God's warriors,” added Ms. Magallanes.
Ms. Joyce Martinez, Clinical Nurse Specialist and an International Breastfeeding Certified Lactation Consultant at HMC, says there are many cases of COVID-19 positive women who have successfully breastfeed their babies as a result of the NICU COVID-19 breastfeeding program.
“Another successful breastfeeding story we can share involves twins delivered prematurely, at 34 weeks, after their mother tested positive for COVID-19. Because the babies were born prematurely and needed intensive care, their mother was separated from them and was required to go into quarantine. While she was away from her babies, WWRC’s NICU team trained her to express her breast milk. She was counseled and given breastfeeding, or milk expression, directions so she was able to safely express her breast milk. After she finished her quarantine period, she was allowed to visit the NICU and to bond with her babies. One of the babies has been discharged and is being predominantly breast milk-fed while the other baby remains in the NICU but should be discharged soon,” explained Ms. Martinez.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Infant and Young Child Feeding Program (IYCF), breastfeeding is recommended during emergencies, disasters, and during health crises as it is deemed practical, economical, and the safest way to feed infants when there is a threat of resource scarcity. The World Health Organization (WHO) says all women have the right to a positive childbirth experience, regardless of their COVID-19 infection status. The world health body says women with COVID-19 can safely breastfeed but note that if a woman with COVID-19 is unwell and unable to breastfeed, she should be supported to provide her baby with breast milk in other ways, such as expressing her milk, re-lactation support, or using human donor milk.
“Breast milk provides nutrients that help with the growth and development of babies. It is known to be a natural source of antibodies that help protect infants from infection and further boosts their immune system as they grow,” says Ms. Laura Carolina Moya Falcon, Clinical Midwife Specialist, HMC’s Corporate Nursing and Midwifery Department.
Ms. Falcon says the new guideline for breastfeeding and handling of breast milk at WWRC’s NICU was implemented to ensure healthcare teams could continue to promote, protect, and support breastfeeding during the pandemic. The WWRC is currently working towards becoming a World Health Organization-accredited Baby Friendly Hospital.