In conversation with Dr. Ezhil Malar
By Juliana Sridhar

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The current pandemic is wrecking havoc throughout the globe. In these trying moments, women who are in the family way will face umpteen number of hurdles. Here is an interview with Dr. Ezhil Malar, a gynaecologist and obstetrician from Ezhil Hospitals who has 25 years of experience to her credit and is extremely well known. She is an expert in the field of laproscopic gynaec surgeries and in infertility. This is what she has to say in reply to my questions.

Dr. Ezhil Malar

What is the psychological impact of the pandemic on pregnant women?

Pregnant women stand the same risk as the general public. But having said that, they are a vulnerable population for respiratory illnesses due the immune modification and the growing gravid uterus posing biochemical and mechanical derangement to the respiratory system.  Emerging infections always pose a serious threat to pregnant women and the unborn child due to the uncertainties and limited knowledge.

Psychological impacts are: 

  • Fear of contracting the virus
  • Fear of unborn child being affected
  • Apprehension of reaching the safety of hospitals.
  • Concerns about the availability of doctors and health workers and necessary facilities
  • Inability to cope up with pressure of pregnancy and handling lockdown
  • Inability to celebrate baby showers and missing out on buying special baby needs
  • Tied to their homes with no physical activity
  • Travel restrictions leading to little or no help from the elderly kith and kin. It can also lead to depression for some.

What are the safety measures to be taken by public in general

  • Social distancing and staying away from sick people
  • Staying at home and not going out unless absolutely necessary.
  • Following hand hygiene and use of sanitizers with 69% alcohol.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting objects like doorknobs, phones, tables and other surfaces.
  • Eating healthy food after proper cooking and handling groceries the right way.
  • Doing physical activity and meditation.
  • Keeping abreast with the news.

What advice do you have for women in the family way?

  • They should follow all the above in addition to the following.
  • Intake of a well balanced diet.
  • Active leg movements to prevent clotting of blood in the lower limbs.
  • Cut down on salt, sugar and oil.
  • Increase intake of foods rich in iron.
  • Maintain a foetal kick chart
  • Lie on the sides.
  • Get telephonic guidance from your doctor.
  • Dispel fear and anxiety by having telephonic or online discussions with your health care providers.

Are some babies born during this lockdown period named after the Pandemic?

Yes. Some of them have been named Corona, Covid, Lockdown, Corona Kumari, Virus etc.

Actually the word Corona is a Spanish word which means crown. It was a good choice for naming girl babies till this virus made it infamous.

Some parents say that the names symbolize their triumph over hardship and it would serve as a reminder for the tough times they underwent while giving birth.

If a mother is tested Covid Positive, does the infection pass on to the newborn child?

Actually we found that in the mothers who were infected, there was no trace of the infection in the amniotic fluid, placental tissue or even in the breast milk. This goes to show that there is no vertical or in-utero transmission of the virus from the mother to the baby in the womb.

What are the precautions that an infected mother has to take while feeding her child?

Breastfeeding is advocated with safety precautions such as wearing a mask. If the mother is skeptical to breastfeed and come in contact with her newborn, she must be encouraged to express her milk using precautions and get some other family member to feed the newborn after ensuring that it is safe and free from the virus.

Can you list out the precautions to be taken by mothers in general

  • Practice self isolation.
  • Do not allow outsiders to visit your home or the hospital
  • Avoid hiring any domestic help or even nurses.
  • Do not allow family members or friends to visit you on the pretext of seeing the baby
  • The newborn chores should be divided among the existing family members at home
  • Ensure that utmost care is taken and sanitization is done for all clothes and belongings of the newborn.
  • Doctor visits should be done telephonically or online to avoid exposing the newborn to crowds unless it is absolutely necessary.

Anything else you would like to convey to our readers.

Yes. I feel that doctors and health workers are frontline warriors who are fighting a deadly pandemic without even proper PPE. They are physically fatigued  by long hours of work and are adjusting with the available protective gear like surgical masks, caps, visors, goggles etc. They are also under great mental stress due to social distancing. Some of them are not even able to meet their families. They are at high risk of being infected and many have contracted the deadly virus. At this critical juncture, I request the public to stand by us.

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