A pregnant doctor has described the experience of carrying a child amid the coronavirus outbreak, revealing the daily battle she faced.
Dr Coral Olazagasti from the Zucker School of Medicine in New York discovered she was expecting on 15 December 2019 after “longing for a baby for years”.
But after hearing news of an emerging virus in China, a “distant thought became a real concern” when its death toll continued to rise. When the virus reached New York, the healthy 31-year-old started fearing for her unborn baby, who she had “already grown so attached to”.
Writing in the journal Cancer Care Chronicles, the second-year haematology-oncology fellow described how she became concerned in late January when the coronavirus had been identified in 21 countries.
On January 20, the US reported its first case after a man returned from Wuhan only to develop the virus’ tell-tale fever and cough.
By the second week of February, Coral was facing a “three-month block of inpatient consult rotations” combined with “increasing fears of when the time would be that she would come face to face with the dangerous COVID-19”.
I wrote this as a way of expressing the many feelings I had. I‘m humbled/honored that such an emotional catharsis ended as a published article in a journal like @JAMAOnc. I’m so thankful to share this with my child. After all, we were in this together. https://t.co/t9kNm1DSw2— Coral Olazagasti (@COlazagasti) April 24, 2020
“Despite not wanting to, I started fearing not just for myself, but also for my unborn, still-developing baby who I had already grown so attached to,” she wrote.
The medic’s “biggest fear became reality” when New York reported its first case on 29 February.
“In the following days I saw the numbers doubling and the amount of cases rising in a shocking manner,” she wrote.
“My thoughts kept fluctuating between a feeling of fear and my almost-reflexive sense of altruism, which is the very reason I chose this profession over others.
“I, like many others in my profession, have over the years developed a mindset that compels me to choose work over anything else.
“Inside of my brain my maternal instincts continued to battle my physician instincts on a daily basis”.
On April 6, Coral called time on her frontline efforts after “eight very long and challenging weeks”.
“This COVID stuff really takes a toll on the soul,” she wrote on Twitter.
Baby and I are done!!💃🏽 After 8 very long and challenging weeks of inpatient service, this stretch is finally over!! 🙌🏽 This COVID stuff really takes a toll on the soul. We are excited to work remotely for now. Baby boy is already a champ in my eyes ❤️ @NorthwellHealth pic.twitter.com/qqa25salpP— Coral Olazagasti (@COlazagasti) April 5, 2020
While in her paper she concluded: “Living and working in this era of horrific pandemic while pregnant is definitely not easy.
“There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and I have faith this, like other pandemics in the past, shall pass”.
What is the Coronavirus advice for pregnant women?
Pregnant women have been urged to be particularly careful not to catch the coronavirus, however, this may be a case of being on the safe side.
“Infections and pregnancy are not a good combination in general and that is why we have taken the very precautionary measure while we try and find out more,” Professor Chris Whitty, the UK’s chief medical adviser, previously said.
According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) “pregnant women do not appear to be more likely to be severely unwell than other healthy adults if they develop the coronavirus”.
Virtually unheard of just three months ago, experts are learning more about the virus every day.
“What we do know is that pregnancy in a small proportion of women can alter how your body handles severe viral infections,” according to the RCOG.
“What has driven the decisions made by officials to place pregnant women in the vulnerable category is caution.”
The Royal College of Midwives has urged expectant mothers to attend scheduled hospital appointments, calling them “essential to ensure the wellbeing of pregnant women and their babies”.
For those showing symptoms and in isolation, the RCOG recommends letting your midwife or antenatal clinic know in advance so they can make arrangements.
Some women not showing symptoms report being asked to attend these appointments alone.
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