With the rising number of locally transmitted COVID-19 cases across South Africa, government has declared a 21-day national lockdown, effective until 16 April. For many expectant mothers, there are concerns on how this will impact their access to maternity care

The lockdown will shut down most local industries, aside from essential services in security, healthcare, food, telecommunications and electricity. The good news, for expectant mothers, is that antenatal services will continue.

“Obstetric and antenatal care are considered essential services, which will continue despite the nationwide lockdown,” says Dr Howard Manyonga, an obstetrician and Head of The Birthing Team. “We urge women who are pregnant to consult with their doctors and midwives to ensure the continuity of care during this period.”

Antenatal care is known to improve pregnancy outcomes and the overall health of newborns

“Important visits should not be postponed, monitoring the health and development of your child is crucial at this time. We need to ensure that both mom and baby are doing well,” says Manyonga.

Healthcare professionals and hospital staff are putting sanitary measures in place to ensure strict social distancing and limited interpersonal contact, to help curb the spread of the virus. “We are working to reduce the strain of the outbreak on our already struggling health infrastructure. The lockdown is necessary to increase our country’s ability to provide appropriate care going forward,” says Manyonga.

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As part of a vulnerable group at risk of contracting COVID-19, pregnant women are strongly advised to remain at home during the lockdown

“Aside from seeking medical care, expectant moms should restrict their visits to public spaces such as the grocery store or pharmacy. If they have no one to assist them at this time, they must follow the correct preventative measures,” he says.

Manyonga advises pregnant women to remain calm and speak to their healthcare professional about any concerns; “They will provide you with information and help you decide whether it is necessary for you to seek further medical treatment.”

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Expecting moms who are concerned that they may have contracted COVID-19 can contact the Department of Health’s 24-hour emergency line on 0800 029 99

. A healthcare professional will visit their home and screen them for the virus. Alternatively, they can access a list of designated hospitals assigned to manage COVID-19 cases on www.sacoronavirus.co.za/contact/.

The Birthing Team, supported by healthcare management company PPO Serve, provides affordable private maternity care to women who are uninsured. Their all-inclusive fee covers all necessary scans, tests, medication and consultations, including hospital costs for the delivery, based on their allocated care plan. They are currently operational at Netcare Park Lane in Johannesburg, Netcare Femina in Pretoria, Netcare Pholoso in Polokwane and JMH City Hospital in Durban, with more sites planned in 2020. Visit www.thebirthingteam.co.za for more information.

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