Having Belly During Ebola
During the 2014–2016 Ebola outbreak, pregnant women faced challenges accessing care and keeping safe. Many health care facilities closed. The public discourse on the impact of Ebola created fear of pregnant women and fostered stigma and discrimination. Many providers refused to treat to pregnant women, and consequently maternal health care declined. In this study, enrollees were women who were pregnant during the outbreak, who lost pregnancies, who delivered healthy babies, and health care providers who treated women with Ebola. Study participants were recruited based on their experiences in the outbreak and reflected convenience sampling and snowballing. Participation was through a focus group or in-depth individual interviews. Data was coded, tabulated, and analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively based on major themes. Three women who experienced pregnancy and pregnancy loss during the Ebola virus outbreak and seven health care workers who supported women who were pregnant were enrolled. Respondents were deeply impacted by the outbreak—some were infected, and many pregnant women experienced stigma, discrimination, and poor access to care. Women were forced to make tough ethical decisions that led to on-going distress at time when they were experiencing significant psychological problems and trauma. The Ebola epidemic led to personal, psychological, and economic and health system losses, as well as changes in health care delivery. Unfortunately, many of the factors that fueled Ebola’s adverse and disproportional impact on Liberia’s pregnant women persist, and addressing these factors requires urgent action.
KeywordsPregnancy Ebola Stigma Discrimination Liberia Maternal morbidity Maternal mortality Ebola virus disease Stigmatization Health care workers Survivors Witness accounts
Janice L. Cooper, PhD, and Meekie Glayweon, MA, worked on the Incident Management System for the Liberia Government’s response to Ebola. Dr. Cooper headed the Psychosocial Pillar and Rev. Glayweon was coordinator of the National Ebola Survivor Network. Reverend Glayweon is with the PREVAIL III Natural History Study, JFK Hospital, Monrovia, Liberia. The University of Liberia PIRE’s IRB approved the research study upon which this article is based. The research for this chapter was approved by the University of Liberia, Pacific Institute For Research and Evaluation Insitution Review Board, UL-PIRE. We thank the participants who were willing to discuss their experiences in Ebola.
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