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Mother’s Day: Warning that pregnant mothers and babies born during the COVID-19.

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As the world prepares to celebrate the Mother’s Day on Sunday, India is expected to see 20.1 million pregnancies and births after the eruption of the novel corona virus outbreak in the country, according to estimates by UNICEF.

Warning that pregnant mothers and babies born during the COVID-19 outbreak were threatened by “strained health systems and disruptions in services” across the world, the UN agency said this could put the lives of mothers and their newborns at risk.

Representing the Coalition for Reproductive Health and Safe Abortion, obstetrician Subhasri Balakrishnan pointed out the danger that this situation posed for mothers and babies in India.

“A Chennai-based diabetic pregnant lady was rushed to the hospital for complications. We later learned that under the lock down, she was trying to ration her insulin dosage,” she recounted.

Balakrishnan told Anadolu Agency that the pandemic affected “surveillance of maternal issues in rural areas,” with the report and review of all pre and post-natal issues and deaths — a routine practice under normal circumstances — has come to a standstill.

“Most community health workers have been diverted and thus we’re not even sure what issues these women will be facing,” she said

She also added that the pandemic was leading to a parallel epidemic that would not only have short-term repercussions but would also affect long-term moralities.

Following India, four other countries that are expecting high numbers of births since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic on March 11. These include China at 13.5 million, Nigeria at 6.4 million, Pakistan at 5 million, and Indonesia at 4 million.

Newborn health in India

India suffered an infant mortality rate (IMR) of 32 per 1,000 live births in the year 2018, though this improved to nearly 30 per 1,000 live births by 2019, according to most recent data released on the country’s National Sample Registration System.

These figures are among the highest in the world. Despite the decline in IMR over the past decades, one in every 31 infants dies within the first year of their life nationwide.

“During the national lock down period, community-based vaccination services have been interrupted. However, facility-based immunization services continued,” said UNICEF India health chief Luigi D’Aquino.

“As of this week, India has adopted a strategy of cluster containment, whereby in COVID ‘hot spots’ the access to immunization and other maternal and child health services is restricted, whereas, in other clusters in the country, services including outreach immunization have been progressively resumed,” D’Aquino told Anadolu Agency.

UNICEF estimates have indicated that globally up to 116 million children may miss immunization services due to COVID-19. The full impact of the interruption of immunization services is yet to be documented.

Global births amid virus

An estimated 116 million babies will be born around the world under the shadow of the pandemic.

UNICEF said its analysis was based on data from the World Population Prospects 2019 report by the UN Population Division.

Mothers and newborns will be greeted by the harsh realities of the virus, UNICEF said, amid global containment measures such as lock downs and curfews, as well as overwhelmed medical facilities, shortages in supplies and equipment and the redeployment of birth attendants like midwives to treat COVID-19 patients.

The agency also signaled that most countries with high births already had high neonatal mortality rates even before the pandemic and could see these levels increase with the outbreak.

“Expecting mothers are afraid to go to health centers for fear of getting infected or missing out on emergency care due to strained health services and lock downs,” said Henrietta Fore, the Executive Director of UNICEF.

“It’s hard to imagine how much the corona virus pandemic has recast motherhood,” she said.

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Covid-19 lockdown reduced mental health, sleep globally says study

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A new research is adding to the growing body of evidence that COVID-19 lockdown dramatically altered our personal habits, reduced mental health, sleep and exercise.

Researchers also found that the lockdown’s effects were magnified among people with obesity.

“The stay-at-home orders did result in one major health positive. Overall, healthy eating increased because we ate out less frequently. However, we snacked more,” said study author Leanne Redman from Pennington Biomedical Research Centre in the US.

“We got less exercise. We went to bed later and slept more poorly. Our anxiety levels doubled,” Redman added.

The global survey, published in the journal Obesity, evaluated the inadvertent changes in health behaviours that took place under the pandemic’s widespread restrictions.

“Overall, people with obesity improved their diets the most. But they also experienced the sharpest declines in mental health and the highest incidence of weight gain,” Redman said.

One third of people with obesity gained weight during the lockdown, compared with 20.5 per cent of people with normal weight or overweight.

The online survey study ran during April. More than 12,000 people worldwide took a look at the survey and 7,754 completed the detailed online questionnaire.

A majority of the respondents were from the US, Australia, Canada, the UK, and more than 50 other countries also responded.

The study demonstrated that chronic diseases like obesity affect our health beyond the physical.

The research team would like physicians and scientists to modify the way they manage patients with obesity in two ways — by increasing the number of mental health screenings during and after the pandemic, and by remaining connected to patients/study participants through remote visits and telehealth to prevent irreversible health effects from the pandemic.

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