Safe pregnancy at risk in COVID-19 crisis
Routine maternity care has recently changed in Australia due to COVID-19 restrictions, with researchers and clinicians expressing concerns that a drop in physical assessments and face-to-face consults could lead to an increase in stillbirth rates.
Pregnant women are currently not considered high risk to contract COVID-19, however changes are being made to regular antenatal appointments as advised by RANZCOG that pose potential risks to mother and baby. The recommendations, while aimed to keep health workers and expectant families safe during a pandemic, contradict the Australian Government’s Pregnancy Care Guidelines.
Included in some of the changes recommended by RANZCOG are: reducing, postponing and/or increasing the interval between antenatal visits; limiting time of all antenatal visits to less than 15 minutes; using telehealth consultations in Australia or New Zealand as a replacement, or in addition to, routine visits; and cancelling face-to-face antenatal classes.
Stillbirth awareness organisation Still Aware believe that regular antenatal care is crucial to reduce a woman’s risk of stillbirth. This includes the need for face-to-face care to ensure health checks can be administered on mother and baby.
Associate Professor Jane Warland shares concerns that the maternity care designed to keep women and their babies safe, is being disregarded in an attempt to overprotect women.
“Of course we are in unprecedented times, but these kind of measures were developed and enacted broadly and quickly, without supporting evidence”, Assoc Prof Warland says.
“I’m worried that pregnant women who have concerns about a change in their unborn baby’s movements may be even more reluctant than usual to access timely assessment of their baby's wellbeing from their care provider”
As an academic midwife and researcher, Assoc Prof Warland warns that without the continued physical assessment and emotional support that women and babies need during pregnancy, there will be a global increase of stillbirth.
Claire Foord, CEO and Founder of Still Aware, encourages expectant families to continue practising the daily actions for a safer pregnancy, and to always follow your instincts.
“We encourage pregnant women to act quickly to seek assistance from the care provider if they have any concerns, and we encourage clinicians to listen and provide protective pregnancy advice and respond without delay,” says Foord.
Still Aware will continue providing their free information on safer pregnancies to expectant families and clinicians Australia-wide, to educate mothers and clinicians.