In the name of social distancing, doctors no longer examine us during antenatal visits, pregnant women allege

Angela Onwuzoo

Some pregnant women allege thatthey no longer get proper care during antenatal visits.

They say that health workers are afraid to touch or come close to them for fear of contracting COVID-19.

This is a cause for concern, maternal and child health experts say, as the situation may increase Nigeria’s already high maternal and infant mortality rate.

PUNCH HealthWise spoke with a handful of pregnant women, who claim that health workers ask them to do the health checks themselves.

A 39-year-old mother of two who is pregnant with her third baby, Mrs. Chinyere Onwuka, told our Correspondent that she cannot compare the current antenatal care with her two previous pregnancies.

She lamented that becoming pregnant during the COVID-19 global pandemic is a risk, owing to the attitude of health workers and the skeletal services being offered to patients.

“health workers no longer do the normal physical check for us, such as measurement of the tummy, checking baby’s heartbeat and position.

“I am now in the ninth month, but since I started attending antenatal, I have not been examined for one day.

“Each time I visit, after checking my blood pressure and weight, the nurse will ask me,‘hope you are monitoring the heartbeat of your baby? You know you have to do the check yourself. Hope the baby is kicking?’”

She will then ask if I had any complaint? If there is none, we willbe advised to go and continue to monitor the heartbeats of our baby and also take our drugs.

Another expectant mother, Mrs. Philomena Audu, from Plateau State, also told similar story.

The mother of three, who is pregnant with her fourth baby, narratess, “We are no longer properly checked because of COVID-19.

“Before now, wheneverwe attended antenatal clinics, health workers will take time to attend to us and do thorough check. Not anymore.”

Audu added, “But now, everything has changed. We are now asked to do the check by ourselves.

“Sometimes, they ask us to do a scan to know the position of the baby.”

Mrs. Alice Friday, a 38-year-old fashion designer from Cross River State who is eight-month pregnant, said, “During my first pregnancy, whenever I attended antenatal care, the midwife will wear hand gloves and check me very well and she will discuss her findings with me. She will also counsel me as necessary.

“But now, since I registered, they have not checked me. They are not doing that physical examination again because of fear of COVID-19.”

Globally, antenatal care is advocated as the cornerstone for reducing children’s deaths and improving maternal health.

According to experts, antenatal care benefits both the mother and the baby; it assists in screening, diagnosing and managing or controlling the risk factors that might adversely affect pregnant women or pregnancy outcome.

PUNCH

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