'Midwives are using technology solutions': The future of maternity care post-Covid
While healthcare professionals across the country are working on the frontlines to curb the spread of Covid-19, the healthcare system continues to care for patients who present health concerns unrelated to the virus.
This, of course, places severe constraints on particular fields in which the wheels never stop turning, obstetrics and maternal care is undoubtedly one such field.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised that while "there is no evidence that [pregnant women] are at higher risk of severe illness," special precautions must be taken as their ever-changing immune systems remain vulnerable to respiratory infections.
Hospitals have followed suit.
As local obstetrician and health systems management expert, Dr Howard Manyonga tells Parent24, these measures include "cutting down the length and frequency of in-person antenatal visits, restricting birth partners in the labour ward (including spouses and midwives), and adhering to a no-visitors policy."
Sadly, this also includes the separation of a mother from her baby, he says.
For many new moms, these safety measures have come at a high price.
"I am all in favour of safety during this time but to take away an opportunity like this?" Asked one first-time mom, who shared her birth-during-lockdown story with Parent24.
"I know there are more women in my position, and we will never be able to get that time back."
Another pitfall of local obstetrics, says Dr Manyonga, who heads up the Birthing Team, a private maternity healthcare provider, is the rising number of women giving birth through caesarean section.
"The procedure, if not medically indicated, unnecessarily consumes significant Personal Protective Equipment per procedure, which could be directed towards more frontline workers, and thus puts more healthcare workers at risk of transmission."
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Midwives and doulas are also counted among the maternal support services no longer afforded to pregnant women due to the pandemic, but according to Dr Manyonga, the Birthing Team is using technology to address this.
"Our midwives are using all available technology solutions to stay in touch with patients, including telephony and social media platforms. Since antenatal classes can no longer take place, many are volunteering their services and advice over Zoom calls and WhatsApp groups. Telehealth has many advantages, including keeping patients safe from possible exposure to the virus and improving access to care during lockdown."
Dr Manyonga says he foresees this use of technology being used across the board as a means for allowing pregnant women continued access to an essential service without the risk of infection.
"Going forward, we may see a pivot towards out of hospital services and the rise of community-based midwives to care for expectant mothers away from infection hotspots…. we can enable the use of telehealth to drive affordable, value-based maternity care."
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