The covid-19 pandemic in Brazil has already killed at least 1,461 pregnant women, according to data from the Obstetric Observatory of Covid-19, and was responsible for the premature birth of many babies.
According to Dr. Rosana Richtmann, infectology coordinator at Grupo Santa Joana, covid can evolve into serious forms, especially from the third trimester of pregnancy, and induction of labor is often the only option.
“The great challenge of managing covid in pregnant women is that every treatment given to pregnant women involves more people, that is, the fetus”, he stresses. “We don’t have the same freedom for medications or some types of therapy.”
The doctor says that, at the beginning of the pandemic, the health services did not yet know how to deal with the situation. “Over time, we learned that we were able to take care of this premature infant in the NICU in order to be able to take much better care of this mother. Prematurity is one of the consequences of covid, whether induced or natural.”
As the risk of the mother passing the virus to the baby is relatively low, according to her, 4%, the concern lies with the mother. “Even newborns who are born infected have a favorable evolution in most cases”, he says.
Ritchmann remember that the prevention of covid in pregnant women, with vaccine and other measures non-pharmacological, it is crucial. “Pregnant women are more vulnerable to having severe covid. The recommendation is to vaccinate all Brazilian pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy,” he says.
If the reports of people who were on the verge of death because of covid are already very strong, in the case of women who developed the disease while waiting for their babies, the contours are even more dramatic. Next, three mothers report the universe the ordeal of having to give birth to save her own life — rooting for her babies.
“I only took my kids after 40 days”
“On June 8, I went to the emergency room feeling a lot of pain in my legs and back. I was 35 weeks pregnant with twins. I went through screening and was already placed in isolation with suspected covid.
When the exam showed that I had the new variant of covid, the general practitioner already said that I was at risk of life and would have to induce labor. I started to cry, desperate, but he said it would be all right and we began the preparations for a cesarean. The same night they had a C-section and I gave birth to my babies, Ryan and rael.
I had planned everything, packed my bags, organized at clothes, everything in my own way, but I couldn’t put any of this into practice. I wish my husband had attended the birth, but it was not possible.
I didn’t even have the privilege of holding my children, I just looked at them, heard the crying and my fight began.
As soon as I had the babies, I was sedated and I was intubated for nine days. The babies were born without a covid, were discharged two days later and were taken care of by my mother, mother-in-law, sister, sister-in-law and husband. The news was always that I wouldn’t make it back, that the odds were slim. In total, there were 22 days hospitalized.
Anxiety ends up disrupting the treatment a lot. My blood pressure got even higher, they couldn’t control it, so they gave me more sedatives. There were moments when I thought about giving up, I thought I wasn’t going to make it. I even said to my husband: ‘Give the boys over to my mother’.
When I was finally discharged, I still spent 20 days isolated at home without access to my children. It wasn’t until they were 40 days old that I was able to catch them for the first time and finally have a mothering routine. Breastfeeding was a dream. I haven’t given up yet, I try to get them to take it, sometimes they start to breastfeed, but as it’s not enough, they end up refusing.
At the hospital, I didn’t have access to a cell phone. I just remember a visit from my husband. He wrote me a letter saying that everything would be all right. Then, in the bedroom, I started to have memories of other visits. He gave news of the babies and my desire to hold them was enormous. We spend nine months dreaming about that day, I planned a lot, but I don’t complain, I just thank you for having the opportunity to come back. Today I thank you for everything I have. I’m even grateful for having gone through this.
We are first-time parents and newlyweds. Everything was very new for us. The twins are fine, they are plump, healthy, smart and beautiful. We received a lot of help and donations, I am very grateful to my support network and also to the staff at the Santa Marcelina hospital in Itaquaquecetuba. The nurses are such angels, they all fought hard for my life. And me too.
Patrícia Rocha Bertunes, 34, coordinating assistant at a public school, mother of Ryan and Rael, 2 months old.
“I didn’t see my son when he was born”
The pregnancy was calm, it was planned, we were doing the isolation right. I was 31 weeks old, in May 2020, when I started feeling covid symptoms. I think I got it in a laboratory, because I only left the house for exams and consultations.
I started to feel very tired, I told my doctor and he told me to inhale. Three days later, I realized I had no taste and no sense of smell and went to the hospital. The blood test showed that the platelets were low, I had the beginning of thrombosis and was diagnosed with the syndrome hellp. I was hospitalized without the right to a companion. In the morning the platelets continued to drop and I was told that I would have to have an emergency delivery.
I went into denial. It was a shock, I didn’t want to accept it. To make matters worse, the doctor who accompanied me throughout the pregnancy did not give me any assistance at that time. I was there with an unknown team, feeling very scared. The doctor called my husband in front of me and said that the baby and I were at risk of life, that I would have to induce labor.
I had general anesthesia so I couldn’t see my son when he was born. I spent two days in the ICU and he went straight to the NICU. I was discharged after five days, but he didn’t. I went home without even having seen my baby, I couldn’t have access to him. He stayed there in the ICU alone, making video calls for me to see him.
Only after twenty days and several exams PCR negatives is that I got to know my son.
I visited him on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, I started to feel a lot of pain on the left side of my chest and I went back to the ICU for two days. It was just stress. It wasn’t until Friday that I was released to see my baby again. He still spent three weeks in the ICU due to prematurity, but he never got covid.
I was able to breastfeed thanks to the hospital’s milk bank. The nurse was good, came into the room all dressed up because I was still infected, asked if I wanted to breastfeed and I said I did, it was a dream. She taught me how to milk using the hospital machine and I was given oxytocin to stimulate the milk, as I did not have access to the baby. I breastfed until 11 months.
In addition to being my first child, he is a ‘rainbow baby’—I had a miscarriage before I got pregnant from it.
Just being alive, seeing so many people who lost their child, a premature baby who was left without a mother, I am so grateful to be able to see my child grow up. When I was intubated, I just thought: ‘I just want to have the opportunity to raise my child’. God gave me this opportunity and I am so happy for it.
Glaucia Albuquerque Oliveira, 30, educator, mother of Gustavo, aged 1 year and three months.
“I spent two weeks at ECMO fighting for my life”
“I started having a fever in the middle of labor. A week earlier, I had gone to a friend’s birthday outdoors. I had a normal birth, but then I had bleeding and laceration and went for a surgical procedure. I tested positive for the covid and I even breastfed, wearing a mask. My anguish was not being able to kiss and smell my son. I had no idea what would happen.
I was discharged, but I was very weak, pale. On the third day I returned to the hospital, with 30% of my lung already compromised. I was hospitalized and I was desperate to be away from my baby, I just cried and thought about going home, but my condition only got worse. On the third day I went to the ICU in a hurry, my saturation dropped to 33%, my lung was 100% compromised.
I was intubated but showed no improvement. they gave me three hours to live
That’s when they talked to my family about ECMO [oxigenação por membrana extracorpóreo, o mesmo procedimento feito no ator Paulo Gustavo]. They said it was the only thing that could save me, but it’s an extremely invasive procedure and they didn’t know if I would respond well. There are only two ECMO machines in Belo Horizonte, and one of them had just vacated. I managed to survive until the device arrived at the hospital and I was placed in it.
They had to dry my milk to avoid the risk of infection. I responded well to ECMO and my family began to have hope. After seven days they took me out of ECMO, it was a party. But during decannulation, I had a pulmonary embolism.
That night I felt really sick and told my mother I wanted to give up. They put me back on ECMO for another week. I could only see my son after 23 days
He didn’t have covid and was in the care of my family and my husband. Now I can experience the motherhood that I dreamed of so much. I couldn’t breastfeed because I’m still taking anticoagulant medication, I’ll still take it for six months, due to the embolism. It’s a sad question for me, my dream was to breastfeed. But I’m alive, healthy, and that’s what matters.
During hospitalization, I gained 20 thousand followers on Instagram. A group of people kept vigil for me in front of the hospital, sang praises, that gave me a lot of strength.
Vitória Zuppo Gonzalez, 25, digital influencer, mother of Benjamin, 2 months old.