The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic calls for a strong concerted effort from all. The Society of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians of Cameroon (SOGOC), is monitoring the situation closely and salutes the efforts and measures taken by the government of Cameroon to tackle the pandemic.
Fighting the coronavirus is a herculean task for our health system just like the case for other health systems in the world. A vibrant and functioning health system is vital for the sexual and reproductive health of the population. As a society which is of service to women, we acknowledge our incessant responsibility of ensuring that the women we serve have direct care and access to the services they need most even in the face of the pandemic.
Our society members like other healthcare workers are at the frontline of the fight against COVID-19 and it is important that our government is taking stringent measures to ensure their safety and protection.
However, with the growing number of infected cases and increasing fear and panic, it is very crucial to make accurate information available to all. The COVID-19 outbreak in Cameroon may have raised some worries among women of reproductive age, pregnant women and nursing mothers which should be clarified;
- Everyone can be infected by the virus
- There is no scientific evidence which proves that pregnant women are more vulnerable to COVID-19. However, given that pregnancy in some women can alter how their bodies handle severe viral infections, any pregnant women with respiratory illnesses must be treated with the utmost care due to increased risk of adverse outcomes including COVID-19.
- Pregnant women should follow the same preventive actions recommended for all; avoiding close contact with anyone who is coughing and sneezing, washing hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub, covering mouth and nose with a tissue or flexed elbow when coughing and sneezing (WHO Website) as well as other preventive measures put in place by the Government.
- Systematic prenatal consultation could be avoided to reduce contact with other people. The postpartum visit of the 6th day could be done on phone
- Furthermore, there is no research which shows that the virus can be transmitted through breastmilk, so breastfeeding mothers can comfortably breastfeed their children while respecting the basic rules of hygiene. Breastfeeding mothers who are positive must wear masks while breastfeeding.
- At labour and delivery, the use of the surgical masks is obligatory for patient and health personnel. The clinical class of the disease determines the rest of the precautions to be taken. Urgent delivery may be necessary e.g. Caesarean section and interventional obstetrics.
According to the World Health Organisation, violence against women (sexual violence) tends to increase during every type of crisis. Recent reports from China, US and other countries suggest an increase in domestic violence cases since the outbreak of COVID-19. Violence against women and young girls especially sexual violence can result in serious sexual and reproductive health problems including STDs, rape and unplanned pregnancies. With the COVID-19 outbreak in Cameroon which has led to the shutting down of schools and caused many to stay confined, the above scenario could be same. While the government is struggling to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, attention must also be given to other sexual and reproductive health issues.
While encouraging all to respect the preventive measures put forth by the WHO and our government, our thoughts go out to the families that have been affected by the virus and we urge all to put hands on deck so that together we will conquer COVID-19. We encourage our society members to continue the good service they are doing while staying safe from COVID-19.
The President (SOGOC)
Professor Emeritus Robert J.I. Leke