Coronavirus: Couples urged to think carefully before having baby during crisis

Scotland’s chief medical officer urges people in lockdown to consider contraception 

Jane Dalton
Thursday 26 March 2020 19:29
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Couples with “time on their hands” during the coronavirus lockdown should consider using contraception, Scotland‘s chief medical officer says.

The need for maternity services cannot be paused, and people should ask themselves whether the time was right to have a baby, Catherine Calderwood said.

Pregnant women are more likely to become severely ill with flu when they are pregnant, according to the New Scientist, partly because pregnancy suppresses the immune system, and because in the later stages, the foetus can squash organs, including the lungs.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has previously warned that in many NHS waiting areas, social distancing is impossible, and pregnant women may potentially infect others.

At the Scottish government’s daily media briefing in Edinburgh, Dr Calderwood suggested people should think carefully about getting pregnant during the Covid-19 pandemic.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon was asked whether the Scottish government was expecting a rise in the number of pregnancies as a result of people being ordered not to leave their homes. She passed the question to Dr Calderwood, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist.

She replied: “As the obstetrician in the room, this has occurred to me that in fact we do need to be advising people about having time on their hands.

“The labour ward is always much busier nine months after Valentine’s Day so we have that to consider.

“The serious point is that almost all maternity services are emergency services – they can’t be time-limited, you can’t pause like elective surgery.”

She added: “It has been suggested to me that we talk to people about contraception.

“About 50 per cent of pregnancies are unplanned so perhaps think about whether this is the right time to have an unplanned pregnancy.

“This [coronavirus outbreak] will last for some time. The emergency services – the maternity services – will continue to run, though, so we have planned for all of the babies that would have been born to have exactly the same care that they would have had outside of this pandemic.

“But people are making difficult choices, and we would always encourage people to think: ‘Is this the right time for me? Am I in the best of health? Is this a good time for me to start thinking about having a baby?”’

On the issue of already expectant mothers, Dr Calderwood said: “We are encouraging all women who are currently pregnant to come forward, to have their scans, to have their antenatal care.

“My colleagues in the maternity services across the country have changed what they are doing to offer virtual clinics so women don’t have to travel and don’t have to be seen face-to-face but of course that contact does need to happen.”

Earlier this month a newborn baby tested positive for coronavirus in what was thought to be the youngest case of the disease in the UK.

Additional reporting by PA

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