Many pregnant women are anxious about the risk of infection with the novel coronavirus. The establishment of a system for their safe childbearing with thorough health management is required.
No reports have been made so far that the risk of miscarriage or premature birth will be increased if expectant mothers are infected with the virus. However, certain restrictions are applied to them in terms of which medicines can be administered and having X-ray examinations.
It is important for them to prevent infection by avoiding crowded situations and face-to-face contact. Consideration from people around them and detailed support measures are needed.
The government has decided to make it mandatory for companies to accept pregnant employees’ requests to take leave among other things as a result of their fears about infection by revising a guideline based on the Equal Employment Opportunity Law. The decision was made as a temporary measure effective until January.
Based on instructions from their primary doctors or midwives, pregnant employees can ask companies to consider their concerns. Through consultations, companies will decide how to respond with their concerns by allowing them to take leave or telecommute, or changing their job assignment, among other measures. In case of noncompliance, the state can issue companies with instructions or recommendations.
Anxious voices have been raised from pregnant employees — especially those engaged in medical or nursing care services — worried about circumstances in which they are not able to take leave and fear getting infected at work. It is a matter of course to urge companies to take measures for reducing the risk of pregnant employees’ getting infected.
The guideline was originally designed to take into consideration such matters as miscarriages and morning sickness. Based on an understanding that excessive stress can exert an undesirable influence on the health of mothers, anxiety over the infectious disease was added to the list of concerns subject to the guideline.
The government must make the system well known to employers.
What is worrying is that some pregnant women have been forced to give up on giving birth at their family’s home due to the spread of infections. In particular, many cases have been reported in which expectant mothers living in urban areas experienced cancellations of their childbearing arrangements at local hospitals.
In April, the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology called on people to avoid returning to their hometowns to give birth from the standpoint of preventing infections from spreading.
It is true that some hospitals in local areas are not yet fully prepared for taking measures against nosocomial infections. To deal with the situation, considerate responses are required including that the primary doctors of expectant mothers arrange alternative medical institutions.
Giving birth in hometowns offers an advantage for expectant and nursing mothers to feel secure while receiving support from their family members. A system should be studied to allow them to visit their hometowns on the condition that they have taken polymerase chain reaction tests before giving birth.
It is also indispensable to take care of them after their deliveries. Amid the spread of the virus, many administrative services managed by local governments have been suspended one after another, including postnatal care services in which midwives provide advice to mothers and medical checkups are conducted to examine the growth of babies and young children.
After childbirth, mothers are likely to become emotionally unstable due to such factors as changes in hormonal balance. Amid the continuation of stay-at-home measures, many mothers are believed to be feeling increasingly isolated while taking care of their babies. Local governments should strengthen their support for expectant and nursing mothers by improving telephone and online counseling services.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on May 18, 2020.