An obstetrician last week delivered the baby of a woman with COVID-19, reportedly the first procedure of its kind in Taiwan, saying that while the surgery was a success, it was also a “war-like struggle.”
On Wednesday last week, the 31-year-old woman underwent a caesarean section, giving birth to a healthy girl, said Wang Le-ming (王樂明), the woman’s attending physician at Taipei Municipal Wanfang Hospital.
The woman, who was 37 weeks pregnant, was confirmed as having contracted COVID-19 on Monday last week, after her mother and husband were infected, Wang said.
The team decided to conduct a caesarean section as the child had reached full-term, Wang said, adding that the procedure was the best way to minimize the risk of vertical transmission.
A big challenge was deciding how to best reduce the mother’s pain during childbirth while protecting the surgical team, he said.
Without anesthesia, she might scream, spreading droplets in the air, but general anesthesia was risky because intubation could lead to the virus being spread, Wang said.
The woman was given local anesthesia and remained conscious throughout the surgery, which took less than an hour, he said.
The team had to wear thick personal protective equipment (PPE) in an operating room with no air-conditioning, due to concerns over virus transmission, Wang said.
The woman was more anxious when she did not recognize the staff in their PPE, Wang said.
“Don’t be afraid,” Wang told the mother. “We will protect you and your child.”
“I explained the surgery to her before getting started — and looking at her mask, I thought: ‘I’m only 20cm to 30cm away from COVID-19,’” he said.
The priority for the surgery, other than keeping the mother and child safe, was to be quick, because there was a risk that the child could be infected by being exposed to the air, Wang said, adding that the team was under extreme pressure.
“My vision was blocked so much due to the sweat and heat in my goggles that I could barely staunch the bleeding,” Wang said.
The surgery went smoothly and the baby tested negative for COVID-19, the hospital said.
“I took off my PPEs one by one and then took a shower, finishing this war-like struggle,” Wang said.
Although the mother is isolated from her child, she videochats daily with those taking care of the baby so that she can see her child online.
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