Reema* was overjoyed when she found out that she was pregnant with twins. After a miscarriage and two years of IVF treatments, the 33-year-old dentist was elated. However, three months into the pregnancy, she found herself panicking as the COVID-19 pandemic spread.
Things became really dire when the pharmacies nearest to the Telangana village she was in ran out of the medication she required. â€śSince it is an IVF pregnancy, I needed the hormone based medication until the fifth month. But the nearest Apollo pharmacy, and even the other big pharmacies around it, were in Jaggayyapeta in Andhra Pradesh. And none of them had the medication I needed,â€ť she tells TNM.
All this happened between March 22 and March 24 â€“ between the Janata Curfew, and the announcement of the 21-day nationwide lockdown. And when Reema came to know that the Prime Minister was going to address the nation on Tuesday, she anticipated a lockdown situation.
So, prior to the 8 pm address, she and her husband set out to Hyderabadâ€™s outer ring road, where her sister-in-law â€“ who lives in Hyderabad â€“ would bring the medication that Reema needed. However, at almost all of the 7-8 checkpoints, they were stopped, even reprimanded.
â€śI showed them my medical papers, the letter from the villageâ€™s Public Health Centre (PHC) saying that the medicines and scanning facilities I needed were not there locally. They questioned why we were travelling since it was not a medical emergency. Somehow my husband convinced them each time. The entire 10-hour journey was nerve-wracking,â€ť Reema says.
Finally, they got her drugs from her sister-in-law and then made their way to Kurnool, Reemaâ€™s hometown. â€śI had to go somewhere where I could access the medication I needed to carry my pregnancy and get the scans I need. So, we came here,â€ť she says.
Reema had only shifted to Ramanagar two months ago as her husband was working there. â€śBut not all pregnant women have the option to leave if they donâ€™t get healthcare. This lockdown situation has left them very helpless,â€ť she says.
With the 21-day lockdown in place, the government has made some concessions â€“ such as venturing out to buy essential commodities and medical emergencies. However, there is a lot of uncertainty given instances of police stopping people.
Christina, who is 35 weeks pregnant, came to Kozhikode from Mumbai recently. She came to Kozhikode on March 17, and the next day, went to her doctor. â€śBut when they found out that I had travelled from Mumbai, the doctor told me to go back home and self-quarantine for two weeks first. And now, they have said that doctors are not available for outpatient service unless it is an emergency. So I donâ€™t know when I will be able to go for an appointment now,â€ť she tells TNM.
Abinaya, who is pregnant with her second child and due on April 12, has found herself in a similar situation. While she is staying with her natal family in Tamil Naduâ€™s Sivaganga district, her hospital is in Madurai district. â€śI am supposed to have an appointment on March 31. But now, I am worried about travelling to another district. What if they donâ€™t let me cross the border either way?â€ť she says.
She adds that though she knows travel in the case of emergency is allowed, the uncertainty remains, and this is adding to her anxiety.
â€śThe good thing though is that the hospital has provided me with a WhatsApp number in case we need to speak to a medical professional immediately. They are quite responsive on that,â€ť Abinaya shares.
Pune-based Gouri shares that her doctors have made alternative arrangements, like online appointments. â€śMy doctor checks up on me and advises on what medication I need, if any. It is not the same as giving advice after an in-person examination, but we have to make do. If there a sonography or scan required, then we have to go to the hospital after taking precautions,â€ť says the 40-year-old.
Anxiety around COVID-19
Pregnant women are anxious about having their deliveries in a time where a highly contagious virus is going around.
Shweta*, who is due for her delivery on April 20, has not faced issues with going for her appointments at CMC Vellore as of now. However, she is worried because the hospital has a lab that has been authorised by the Indian government for COVID-19 testing and also function as a collection centre. And though she has seen doctors and staff being careful â€“ wearing masks, using sanitisers, and interacting with patients at a safe distance â€“ she cannot help but worry about herself and her child.
â€śI am worried about delivering in this situation. I have been wearing a mask, using hand sanitisers, and even taking the stairs and avoiding the lift. But I am nervous. I would have been more at ease had I been at an earlier duration in my pregnancy and didnâ€™t have my delivery due around this time,â€ť she tells TNM.
Meanwhile Shwetaâ€™s husband, who is in Chennai, was supposed to join his wife in Vellore for the delivery. But due to the state-wide lockdown, he is unable to be with her, which makes him feel very helpless and anxious. The clothes that they had bought for the newborn also remain in Chennai. â€śI had planned to go with my mother for the delivery. But at my last appointment, they did not let her come in as a precaution. They said only patients can go in. I donâ€™t know to what extent she will be able to be with me during my delivery too,â€ť Shweta worries.
Apart from the news around COVID-19 itself, what is adding to the womenâ€™s stress is that the lockdown may extend beyond 21 days â€“ everything from the unavailability of baby clothes to the thought of being unable to rush to a pediatrician is making them nervous.
â€śWe did not buy clothing and other materials for the baby earlier,â€ť says Abinaya. â€śAnd now they are not really available in Sivaganga. The lockdown may extend tooâ€¦ thinking about all this uncertainty makes me very worried for me and my child,â€ť she says.