An Indian Institute of Technology Madras study of antenatal care and emergency delivery services for pregnant women in the State across the three COVID-19 pandemic waves from 2020 to 2022 found that there were no casualties among pregnant women. 

The researchers said expansion of ambulance service and increased awareness during the pandemic, especially during the second wave, contributed to enhanced emergency care delivery for all, including obstetric and neonatal cases. 

The researchers said even in the United States maternal deaths rose during the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021 as compared to the preceding years, 2018 and 2019. Around 25% of all maternal deaths in 2020 and 2021 were caused by COVID-19. 

Countries such as Lesotho, Haiti, Mexico and Sierra Leone also suffered during the pandemic and a considerable decline in the number of first antenatal visits were recorded in these countries. Lack of transportation facilities and pharmaceutical supplies hindered routine healthcare services, according to healthcare providers. 

A group of researchers, comprising Kandaswamy Paramasivan, a faculty in the Department of Management Studies from IIT-Madras; Ashwin Prakash, Sarthak Gupta and Bhairav Phukan from the Computer Science department of SRM Institute of Science and Technology; M.R. Pavithra from Great Lakes Institute of Management; Balaji Venugopal from the University of Glasgow, UK, collected primary data from 108 ambulance call centre (the toll-free ambulance service facility) register across the State and analysed the effects of the pandemic wave periods, including the post-pandemic phase on maternal healthcare in Tamil Nadu. 

They collected data such as call for ambulance service, which included call for emergency services during pregnancy; planned antenatal care; and vehicular trauma, which was classified as emergency. 

The researchers developed a hybrid network model to predict the daily count of calls for ambulance services. They found that during the second wave, there was an increase in the number of calls for maternal care-related services.  

Despite the pandemic, especially during the second wave in the State when the maximum number of deaths due to the pandemic were reported, there were no casualties when it came to the treatment of pregnant women.  

During the second wave, the ambulance service was also expanded, and healthcare provided was more efficient after the second wave.  

The analysis of the ambulance call logs found that there was an increase in inter-facility transfer during the second wave (62%); post wave 2, it was 160%; during wave 3, it stood at 141% and post-wave 3, it was 165%.  

Also, the mean daily call for ambulance service related to prenatal care rose by 47% during wave 2; and rose to 51% post wave 2; it was 38% during wave 3 and remained at that level post-wave 3, as compared to pre-pandemic levels. 

The researchers believe that their findings could help public health and government authorities to plan and deliver maternal and child healthcare with resilience in the event of another pandemic. 

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