Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) is focused on providing pregnant women with the medical and mental support they require, taking into account the additional challenges that have emerged during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Virginie Sulaiman, a family physician at PHCC’s Leghwairiya Health Centre, explains that an integrated programme is in place to serve and follow up on pregnant women, starting from testing and diagnosing pregnancy through to referring them to the Women's Wellness and Research Centre in preparation for delivery, given that some women may need to be referred earlier due to medical complications or difficulties.
“The follow-up process begins with the booking of an appointment via 107, for a telephone consultation with the family doctor at the health center at which the pregnant woman is registered. The registration procedures for the pregnant lady are then completed, and the pregnancy follow-up file opened, as the family doctor requests tests including a complete blood count, fasting blood sugar, blood type and virus tests,” said Dr Sulaiman.
“Once the required tests are done, an appointment needs to be scheduled one week later to discuss the test results either on the phone or face-to-face. Thereafter, a female health consultant and the health center physician will schedule follow-up checks or visits and issue reminders not to miss tests and ultrasounds. Pregnant women receive eight or nine follow-up consultation sessions, with additional sessions scheduled if required for any health complications,” she explained.
An ultrasound could be requested, depending on the progress of pregnancy, to ascertain the development of the foetus during the first few months, find out if the pregnancy is intrauterine or extrauterine, check the vital signs and pulse of the foetus, and do further tests for pregnant ladies at 11-13 weeks such as screening and diagnostic tests for Down's Syndrome.
During follow-up sessions, the physician will ask for any medical symptoms and assist in treating the same. Pregnant women will also be asked to do medical tests or an ultrasound, and visit the vital signs room to update height, weight, blood pressure and pulse on the pregnancy booklet.
PHCC places importance on tracking gestational diabetes. A pregnant woman undergoes more than one glucose test during pregnancy. There is a fasting blood sugar test at the beginning of pregnancy, and a glucose tolerance test between the sixth and eighth month to detect gestational diabetes. If detected, this condition is treated with a special diet. She can also obtain a referral to the gestational diabetes clinic at the Women's Wellness and Research Center.
Dr Sulaiman points out, though, that the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown up further challenges and restrictions with regards to the regular follow-up of pregnancies. For instance, she says, some pregnant ladies fear visiting health centres, which limits the physicians, as they do not have access to the full information on the status of pregnancy and follow-up.
Dr Sulaiman emphasises that pregnancy is a period that triggers waves of emotions, including anxiety, and that PHCC aims to help counter this as much as possible.
“It goes without saying that during such trying times, we offer mental support to pregnant women. In case of extreme anxiety or discomfort, pregnant women are referred to mental support or psychiatric clinics. We also recommend that, if anxious, she talks to a family member or trusted friends, avoids watching disturbing social media platforms and television shows, requests family and friends not to send negative messages, and even exit social media groups to avoid receiving such messages,” she added.