Coronavirus Lockdown: Pregnant women battle anxiety & restlessness, many seek help through helplines, apps

Last Updated 19 April 2020, 13:07 IST

Sadhna, a 28-week pregnant woman, is having sleepless nights and terrified to visit a hospital. Pooja, who is set to deliver her baby in June, at times suffers from anxiety and restlessness. Like them, many expecting mothers feel extraordinarily pressured by the uncertainty the coronavirus pandemic has brought in its wake.

And the lockdown has augmented the troubles as visiting a doctor for even the periodic consultancy or being with family and relatives is not the same as it were before the outbreak. Also, stepping out of the home to visit a hospital raises the risks manifold for not only the expecting mother but also for the one who is yet to born.

"I am away from my parents who live in Bangalore. I was supposed to be with my husband in Mumbai but my flight was cancelled. I am alone here and trying to keep myself calm through meditation," said Pooja.

Emerging evidence suggests, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research, that transmission of coronavirus from mother to baby before birth or during delivery is possible although the proportion of pregnancies affected and the significance to the neonate is yet to be determined.

Sadhna said she is not sure how bad the situation will get before it starts to improve. “I have been depressed and anxious... I am scared for my child.”

Under these circumstances, several expecting mothers have turned to apps and helplines for guidance.

Imumz is one such app providing assistance to pregnant women.

Its co-founder Ravi Teja said they observed that pregnant women were missing their antenatal visits and scans and this was making them anxious and nervous.

"Several of them then turned to our app which has been seeing a rise in 2,500 users every week since the lockdown began on March 25," he said, adding the company has started a live 'Ask Me Anything' session with senior doctors, dieticians, and psychologists every day to address the concerns of pregnant women.

"We are also conducting live relaxing yoga and meditation sessions. These live sessions are relieving the to-be-mothers from lockdown anxiety and helping them to connect with their babies."

A few helplines have also been started to help expecting mothers during the lockdown. ARMMAN, a Mumbai-based NGO, has launched atoll-free number (1-800-212-1425) for pregnant women and new mothers.

The Aligarh Muslim University's Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology has launched helpline numbers 9719287391 and 9887430520 to help such women.

"The pregnant women who are anxious and have questions about their pregnancy can contact us through the numbers. It reduces their exposure and also saves the pain they would take to travel to hospitals," said Tamkin Khan, chairperson of the department.

"We have been discharging them within 24 hours instead of 72 hours so these helplines help us in following up with them," Khan said.

The helpline can be used by mothers who have questions about their newly born children.

Jaideep Malhotra, a gynaecologist and co-founder of Pruoo Health Tech, said the mantra for pregnant women to stay calm at such a time is to keep communicating with someone who can listen to them and guide them.

"Pregnancy is a journey, which needs to be enjoyed and dealt holistically. The health and personality of the baby depends on how the mother and family care about the pregnancy. Lockdown is a blessing in disguise to put on track our fastrack lives in the right gear. However there is no fear as emergency services are all accessible," she said.

(Published 19 April 2020, 13:07 IST)

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