Premature babies in Brazil are feeling the effects of the coronavirus – even when they are virus-free

His denial has left medical professionals without support, bogged down in patient care without proper resources for prevention or treatment. Brazil has seen more than 16.7 million cases during the pandemic, and the daily death rate is currently around 2,000. Although it has fallen from daily highs of 4,000 in the second wave of April, it is still one of the highest in the world.

While the quality and availability of healthcare can vary in a country as large as Brazil, even the best medical facilities in the country are on the brink of collapse, and only affluent areas such as São Paulo have seen any recovery.

Six months into the Amazonas oxygen crisis, mothers and children are still feeling the effects.

care complications

Every year, about 340,000 babies are born in Brazil prematurely – before 37 weeks. This is twice the rate for Europe, and according to World Health Organization (WHO), the tenth largest number of premature births in the world. Many methods of caring for these children, including early breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact with their parents, remain pending in hospitals across the country despite evidence that this puts their growth, development and even survival at much greater risk than COVID-19. .

While the number of premature births in Brazil for 2020 has yet to be released, experts like Denis Sugitani – founder and director of the non-profit Prematuridade, the country’s only national NGO that supports premature babies and their families – suspect an increase over previous years. .

Prenatal care can prevent many mothers from giving birth prematurely, but COVID-19 has made expectant mothers more likely to skip these doctor visits. According to a study conducted by Brazilian Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecology In July and August of last year, 81% of obstetricians and gynecologists consulted said their patients were concerned about contracting COVID-19 during prenatal appointments.

“When a mother gets the virus and ends up having trouble breathing, the baby can suffocate in the womb.”

Rosicelli Pinheiro, Federal University of Amazonas

“The risks of preterm births are determined during prenatal appointments,” says Sugwitani. “So if a pregnant woman skips an appointment or a scan, there is a chance that a problem with her pregnancy may not be detected that could lead to a premature birth.”

COVID-19 abuse during pregnancy can also be a factor in premature births. According to Rosicelli Pinheiro, a pediatrician and neonatologist at the Federal University of Amazonas, preterm labor can begin when an inflammatory reaction caused by the coronavirus — or another type of infection — manifests itself in the amniotic membrane, causing it to rupture prematurely.

In other cases, babies whose mothers contracted COVID-19 must be born intentionally early.

“When a mother has the virus and ends up having trouble breathing, the baby can suffocate in the womb,” Pinheiro says.

Contact risk reduction

During the pandemic, hospitals have reduced the number of visitors to the neonatal intensive care unit, and some staff have even prevented parents from touching their babies. Pinheiro and other experts say this is the wrong approach.

A particularly important form of skin-to-skin contact is for newborns to rest chest-to-chest over a parent. It’s called kangaroo care, and it has been shown to reduce infant mortality by 40%, hypothermia by more than 70%, and severe infections by 65%. at study MarchThe World Health Organization and partner researchers found that kangaroo care made babies born to mothers infected with the virus more likely to survive, and the benefits far outweighed the small risk of death from the virus.

Carla Luana da Silva, a 27-year-old woman from São Paulo state, was not forbidden to practice kangaroo care with her extremely premature baby – she was forbidden to have any contact with her whatsoever. It was one of the hardest parts of the baby’s 81-day stay in the NICU, da Silva says.

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