Pregnancy is the most beautiful phenomena in the lives of all mammals, humans and animals alike. In humans, a normal pregnancy lasts for a duration of about 40 weeks. During this time the baby grows inside the mother’s womb from a single cell into a fully functioning little human being. At the onset of an event as grand as this, it is common for parents to be concerned for the health of their babies; even more so during a pandemic such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The advancement in science has enabled expectant parents to choose from amongst different birthing procedures for the safe delivery of their child including natural delivery and various other assisted delivery methods. In this section we will be discussing about all the available methods of delivering a baby:
- Vaginal delivery, commonly known as normal delivery is the most common method of birthing babies in mammals. This type of delivery involves pushing the baby out of the uterus via the vaginal opening (usually head first) after labor pain is induced either naturally or clinically.
- Episiotomy is a surgical method in which an incision is made between the vagina and the anus to enlarge the vaginal opening so that the baby can easily come out of the womb without tearing the mother’s skin. This procedure is performed only when the vaginal opening is not big enough for delivering the baby through the vagina.
- Amniotomy is a procedure used to rupture the amniotic membrane with the help of an amniotic hook to induce labor. This procedure can also be done during labor to monitor the health of the baby.
- Chemical Induction of Labor is used to induce labor in mothers using the synthetic derivative of the hormone oxytocin. This method is generally reserved for induction of labor in patients with medical complications.
- Forceps delivery is an assisted method in which the doctor uses forceps which look like two large spoons to safely get the baby’s head outside the vagina during normal delivery.
- Vacuum extraction is a method which involves the usage of a vacuum pump to aid in getting the baby out of the birth canal. In this method, the vacuum cup is placed on the baby’s head and the baby is sucked out of the womb with the help of vacuum and contractions from the mother.
- Cesarean section (c-section) is a surgical method used for delivering babies by making incisions in the abdomen and the uterus usually in situations where birthing through the vagina can prove fatal to the lives of the mother and the child. Of course c-section being a surgical procedure is risky in nature, but can prove to be a lifesaver in situations where the mother and the child are compromised.
The major concerns that arise while delivering the baby of a COVID positive mother are the safety of the mother as well as the child. Studies conducted on pregnant mothers show that in utero transmission of COVID-19 from the mother to child is not possible. Therefore, the only way in which a newborn can get infected by SARS-CoV-2 is when it is outside the safety of the mother’s womb.
The method of delivering the baby of a COVID positive mother, as in most other pregnancies is a choice that is made by the parents with proper consultation with the gynecologist. This scenario holds true if there are no medical complications and severe COVID symptoms observed in the mother.
Therefore, taking into consideration the health condition of both the mother and the child, the following methods can be followed for delivering the baby of a COVID positive mother:
- In cases where the mother displays mild symptoms or is asymptomatic, vaginal/normal delivery is suggested.
- Like in the case of other expectant mothers, the doctors can decide to use assisted delivery methods like episiotomy, amniotomy, induced labor, forceps delivery or vacuum extraction in case any complications arise in the delivery room. They can ask for consent for performing assisted delivery from the legal guardian or the family of the mother and child.
- When the mother suffers severely from the COVID coronavirus and has trouble breathing properly, she might fell breathlessness while pushing the child out during normal delivery putting her own life and the child’s life in jeopardy and hence the physician suggests c-section for the safety of both mother & child.
- In cases where the child has an abnormal heartbeat during delivery but the mother doesn’t have any severe COVID symptoms, it is suggested that vaginal delivery be opted for. In this case the doctors can keep watch on the baby’s health throughout the delivery and if need be, use assisted delivery methods. Going through with vaginal delivery aids in faster postpartum recovery and can help the mother care better for her child post-delivery.
- If both the mother and the child have severe medical complications; c-section is the most obvious delivery method.