New Delhi: Geeta Mediratta sensed that the severe respiratory distress caused by the H1N1 influenza infection in the 28-year old pregnant woman would possibly first kill her seven-month old foetus, then proceed to claim the woman’s life.The gynaecologist-obstetrician and her colleagues in a Delhi hospital faced a medical dilemma. The best chance of saving both lay in inducing labour in the woman to deliver a dangerously premature baby, then treating the mother and her child as independent patients – if the parents would consent.
The sequence of events in the hours before Mediratta and her colleagues took that option to the parents and the week that followed the baby’s birth is akin to a medical thriller, a peep into how medical teams take split-second, risky but often life-saving decisions.
“A third trimester pregnant woman suffering from H1N1 influenza is among the most challenging things in obstetrics,” said Mediratta, a senior consultant at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi, one of six states that account for more than half of over 6,200 cases of H1N1 nation-wide this winter.
While the H1N1 virus can cause mild or severe illness, medical studies suggest that pregnant women, among other sets of patients, are susceptible to developing life-threatening forms of the illness. A study by the US Centres for Disease Control has suggested that the rate of hospitalisation from H1N1 infection among pregnant women is four times higher than in the general population. Most deaths occur among women in the third trimester of pregnancy