Public health care officials have declined to comment on the issue except to acknowledge that procedures are being performed illegally in the majority of the cases. However, specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Sherene Kalloo has confirmed the information.
“I have had patients who have gotten pregnant and are fearful if they contract the virus, what can happen, so without even having any signs or symptoms of the zika virus, they have opted to terminate the pregnancy. We do have an increase in abortions, some known and some unknown,” she said.
Dr Kalloo said she currently has six zika positive pregnant patients under her care.
“I have seen about six to eight patients in the last couple months who have admitted to having done it and of course, there would be the others who will not admit that they have done anything like that,” she said.
While abortion is illegal in T&T, there are loop-holes which allow the procedure to be done if the pregnancy endanger the mother’s mental, emotional and physical well-being.
Kalloo explained that with her patients the main issue is that “they are fearful of what could happen and they cannot live nine months of carrying a pregnancy not knowing the outcome. The anxiety is too much for them.”
“Even before any kind of counselling is done,” Kalloo said, “many patients have the fear of contracting the virus and their fears are valid based on what we know so far and what we don’t know.”
Dr Kalloo explained that in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy, the critical stage of neurological development, is most susceptible point when the risk of developing the zika syndrome would be higher.
She added: “Three cases were reported of patients who contracted the zika virus in the third trimester where follow-ups showed the zika virus caused cessation of brain growth. After monitoring development of these absolutely normal sized babies who had no microcephalic effects documented, theneurological development after birth indicated these children had developmental problems.”
Kalloo said she has now increased her efforts to counsel and educate her patients about the increasing risks and resultant possibilities. This includes urging men to use condoms during sex with their pregnant partner as the virus survives in the female’s system for up to two months and in men’s semen for up to six months.
She recounted that one of her patients in which a brain abnormality had been detected in the unborn baby was refused an abortion at a public health institution even after the mother expressed fears about the quality of the baby’s life .
“She came to me in a mess, mentally. A week later she spontaneously miscarried.”
Dr Kalloo believes more could have been done to stem the spread of the virus.
She estimates that outcomes of current cases ill be seen in the coming months.
However, there is a glimmer of hope now as the latest study on rats confirms the use of antibodies on the zika positive pregnant rodents reversed the actual symptoms in terms of the effects on the baby.
H”We are a long way from giving it to humans but it shows some positivity and