Pregnant women are scared about coronavirus. Let’s take a step back and review the basic information everyone should know.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a newly discovered virus caused by a type of coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. It affects many areas of the body, especially the lungs and breathing.
Common symptoms include fever, cough, and trouble breathing. Many have gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and diarrhea. An odd but common problem is the loss of your sense of smell or taste.
The most common symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after you are exposed to the virus. Many patients with Covid-19 are asymptomatic carries meaning they have no symptoms or only mild symptoms.
Does COVID-19 affect pregnant women?
Researchers around the world are working to answer the question. Here are the highlights from a CDC report released in June.
Pregnant women who contract COVID-19 may be more likely to need care in an intensive care unit (ICU) or need a ventilator (for breathing support).
Pregnant women of color may have a higher risk of severe illness or need ICU care. This is likely caused by social and economic inequity, not biological differences.
The risk of death is not higher for pregnant women with COVID-19 than for non-pregnant women with COVID-19.
How does COVID-19 affect my baby?
There are many unanswered questions about pregnancy and Covid-19. Researchers study these issues around the world. Here’s what we know so far:
- Preterm birth has been linked to other similar respiratory virus infections such as SARS and MERS. With COVID-19, some women have had preterm births. We do not yet know if COVID-19 was the cause.
2. Only a few cases of vertical transmission (mom passing the infection to baby) have been identified worldwide.
3. Babies can catch Covid-19 from a mom after delivery through the transmission of respiratory droplets.
How can pregnant women reduce the risk of coronavirus?
The key steps to mitigate the risk of catching the virus are to:
- Limiting contact with other people as much as possible
- Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Wear a mask or cloth face-covering in public and any other needed protection while at work
- Staying home as much as possible
- Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
Pregnant women should take additional steps to stay healthy. Keeping your live or virtual prenatal care appointments are essential. Prenatal care may look and feel differently during the pandemic. OB-GYNs and midwives are reinventing prenatal care to provide safe care for all pregnant women, to limit the potential for exposure, and to reduce the risk for babies.
Expect changes. Be flexible with your providers, and please be kind to office employees and symptoms screeners working hard to keep you and your baby safe.
Do pregnant women need a mask or face covering?
As of April 3, the CDC says all people, including pregnant women, can wear a cloth face covering when they are in public to slow the spread of COVID-19. Studies have shown people spread the virus before showing any symptoms.
Wearing a mask protects others.
Face covers also protect the person wearing it.
Can pregnant women travel?
Covid-19 travel recommendations are updated frequently on the CDC’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel page.
What should a pregnant woman do if she thinks she has COVID-19?
If you think you may have been exposed to the coronavirus and have a fever or cough, call your ob-gyn or other healthcare professional for advice.
If you have emergency warning signs, call 911 or go to the hospital right away. Emergency warning signs include the following:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath (more than what has been normal for you during pregnancy)
- Ongoing pain or pressure in the chest
- Sudden confusion
- Unable to respond to others
- Blue lips or face
Call ahead before going to the hospital or office. If you have other concerning symptoms, call your ob-gyn or 911.
What should I do if I am pregnant and diagnosed with COVID-19?
The CDC provides guidelines for those diagnosed with COVID-19. Your Obgyn will help guide you through the process. The current CDC advice for all people with COVID-19 includes the following:
- Stay home except to get medical care. Avoid public transportation.
- Speak with your health care team over the phone before going to their office. Get medical care right away if you feel worse or think it’s an emergency.
- Separate yourself from other people in your home.
- Wear a face mask when you are around other people and when you go to get medical care
Will my labor and delivery plans change?
Talk with your ob-gyn or midwife about your birth plan. Hospital policies and procedures may change to help keep you and your baby safe.
Most hospitals have limited the number of allowed visitors and require face covers. Check with your hospital and ob-gyn or other health care professional about your birth plan.
What will happen during labor and delivery if I have COVID-19?
We have found labor and delivery to be the oasis in the hospital. The staff will be taking extra precautions to keep patients safe and reduce the risk of infection. We try to celebrate the joy of delivery each day.
Will I be separated from my baby if I have COVID-19?
Updated recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend keeping baby with a mother who has Covid-19 but with certain precautions.
Can COVID-19 moms still breastfeed?
Researchers have not yet determined if COVID-19 can pass through breast milk and cause infection in the baby. The most recent data indicates it is Most safe to feed breast milk to your baby when you have COVID-19.
Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most babies helping to protect babies against infections and boosting the immune system.
If you plan to breastfeed, talk with your ob-gyn or other health care professional to help teach techniques to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission.
This article was contributed by MacArthur Medical Center’s Dr. Rebecca Gray and will be featured in our newsletter the MacArthur Minute.