Covid 19 disruptions to health services increasing pregnant women anxiety in South Africa

Uncertain times

Amélia Arnoult
A new born sleeping
14 September 2020

“This has been the scariest time of my life. Being a first-time mom is in itself confusing, and even more so when you add on the COVID-19 outbreak, which has left me with so much anxiety”, testifies Clementine, a 27-year-old expectant mom based in Johannesburg (South Africa).

South Africa has one of the largest coronavirus epidemic in the African continent. The total number of confirmed cases is around 633 000, according to the recent figures of the National Department of Health in the country. For thousands of pregnant women and mothers, times are tough and frightening as they might be strongly affected by the disruption of routine health services.

Short and impersonal antenatal check-ups to limit exposure create stressful and uncomfortable conditions increasing the fear of pregnant women and mothers, who need a special attention and answers to their questions. “I no longer get a big hug from my midwife with each visit and any contact is minimized unless necessary”, deplores Amanda, a 38 years old pregnant mother living in Johannesburg. She adds, worried: “At that point, what was a pleasant 2 trimesters turned into a time of great anxiety.”

I do feel more information could be provided

The lack of information delivered by hospitals and clinics is a clear consequence of this situation and widely contributes to the increase of concerns and apprehensions on pregnant mothers and women. “I feel like what is known is being shared, but not a lot is known. That’s what makes this all so scary.”, says Christa, a 32 years old pregnant mother based in Johannesburg.

As information on COVID-19 trickles in, the fear of expectant moms to be infected or to infect their families and the future baby keeps them wide awake at night. They have no choice but to settle for brief written information on the clinics’ boards and short meetings with their gynecologists and midwives, during which all questions cannot be answered due to lack of time of the medical staff.

Even if these expectant moms understand the situation, they would like the Government to encourage the medical staff to educate the patients in clinics and to give more information about the future plans and timelines. “I do feel more information could be provided.”, concludes Amanda.