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Obstetrician recounts 'war-like' delivery for COVID-19 woman

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Taipei, May 22 (CNA) An obstetrician recounted delivering the baby of a woman with COVID-19 earlier this week, reportedly the first procedure of its kind in Taiwan, saying that while the surgery was a success, it was also a "war-like struggle" for everyone involved.

Wang Le-ming , the woman's attending doctor at Taipei Municipal Wanfang Hospital, said on May 19 that the 31-year-old woman underwent a Caesarean section that day, giving birth to a healthy baby girl.

Wang said the woman, who was 37 weeks pregnant, was confirmed as having contracted the disease on May 17 after both her mother and husband were infected.

It did not take long for the team to decide to conduct a C-section since the child had already reached full-term, Wang said, explaining that doing so was the best way to minimize the risk of vertical transmission.

However, among the biggest challenges was deciding the best way to reduce the pain for the mother during childbirth while protecting the medical team, he said.

If there was no anesthesia applied, the woman might scream, sending the virus into the air, Wang said.

A general anesthesia was risky, too, because any intubation could lead to the spread of the virus, he said.

The woman was eventually given a regional anesthesia and remained conscious throughout the less-than-one-hour surgery, he said.

The medical team also had to wear heavy personal protective equipment (PPE) in an operating theater where no air conditioning was allowed due to concerns over virus transmission, Wang said.

The woman was understandably very anxious particularly when she could not recognize any of the team members dressed in the PPE, Wang said.

Wang recalled that he tried to calm the expectant mother by saying: "Don't be afraid. We will protect you and your child."

"I explained the surgery to her before getting started and looking at her mask, I thought, I was only 20-30 centimeters away from COVID-19," he said.

The priority for the surgery, other than keeping both the mother and child safe, was to be quick, because there was a risk the child could be infected by being exposed to the air, Wang said.

The team was under extreme pressure, Wang noted, adding that "my vision was blocked so much due to sweat and heat in my goggles, that I could barely staunch the bleeding from the womb."

Fortunately, the surgery went smoothly, and the baby girl tested negative for COVID-19, said the hospital.

"I took off my PPE one by one and then took a shower, finishing this war-like struggle," Wang said.

According to the hospital, although the mother remains isolated from her child, she video chats with those taking care of the baby every day so she can watch her child online.

Wang said he believes that as long as everyone stands united, Taiwan can contain COVID-19.

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