Women's Wellness and Research Center’s Virtual Maternal and Childbirth Education Classes Helping Pregnant Women During COVID-19 Pandemic
Doha, 19 May, 2020: As part of ongoing efforts to ensure continuity of antenatal education services while adhering to social distancing policies and measures put in place to contain and curb the spread of COVID-19, last month the Patient and Family Education team at Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Women's Wellness and Research Center (WWRC) introduced virtual maternal and childbirth education classes.
With ten to fifteen participants in each group and sessions provided in both English and Arabic, classes are comprised of women who are at a similar stage in their pregnancy. The course covers all aspects of pregnancy, birth, and life with a newborn. Participants are also invited to attend a virtual session two weeks after delivery during which postpartum support is provided.
Dr. Hilal Al Rifai, Medical Director of the WWRC said while several measures, including the virtual and maternal childbirth education classes, have been put in place to keep patients out of clinical spaces, some services must be provided inside the hospital and he wants patients to know that all possible precautions are being taken to limit their exposure to COVID-19.
“Every week more than 300 babies are born at our hospital. And each week our Feto-Maternal Unit and our Obstetrics and Gynecology teams provide care to hundreds of women during inpatient appointments. While we have moved most of our regular outpatient appointments to telemedicine appointments, and while we have implemented a number of new services that are keeping patients out of the hospital, including an urgent consultation hotline and a medication home delivery service, some services must be provided in a clinical environment,” said Dr. Al Rifai.
“While our doctors and nurses may be involved in the direct care of COVID-19 patients before their diagnosis is known or confirmed, once the test is known to be positive, the patient is transferred to a designated COVID-19 hospital. Our staff follows strict infection control measures and we are restricting visitors to our facility. Where possible, we are treating patients over the phone. We want patients to know that their health and well-being are of paramount importance to us and we are taking all possible steps to limit their exposure to COVID-19,” added Dr. Al Rifai.
Dr. Al Rifai says when services are provided online or through telephone consultation, such as the virtual maternal and childbirth education classes, patients should feel confident that their privacy is being fully protected. He says while providing services virtually has been a big change for both physicians and patients, technology is allowing healthcare providers to bridge an important gap and to continue delivering specialist care and support.
“We know that some patients are delaying care because they are afraid of being exposed to COVID-19. By moving many of our services online and to telephone consultations, and by reassuring our patients that we are taking all possible precautions to keep our hospital and clinics free from COVID-19, we trust that those who need medical care won’t delay getting it. I am confident in our capacity to care for and treat patients while keeping them safe,” said Dr. Al Rifai.
Ms. Fahima Yusuf, Acting Assistant Executive Director of Community Midwifery says the virtual maternal and childbirth education classes are helping to equip patients with the knowledge and skills they need to be prepared for the birth journey and beyond. She says women who are patients at WWRC are automatically enrolled in the program and are notified of session details via SMS. She says in addition to proving women with important prenatal information, the program aims to help prevent feelings of social isolation, with participants being encouraged to form virtual social group after the program ends to create their own community and support each other.
“While we want to ensure our pregnant patients do not miss any of their maternal and childbirth classes, we also want to make sure they are emotionally well throughout their pregnancy. By bringing them together, albeit virtually, we can continue providing women with this important service and help them have a platform to support one another,” said Ms. Yusuf.