Coronavirus And Pregnancy - All You Need To Know5 minute
As much of an exhausting period it may be for many people to stay at home for weeks together in this coronavirus pandemic, it is more so for pregnant women, especially those with due dates right around the corner.
There are so many questions asked about pregnancy and about the impact on the health of the mother and her child. So we thought we would take this opportunity, do our bit of thorough research, and try and answer some of the most asked questions about pregnancy and the novel coronavirus.
First and foremost, it is important to understand how the virus spreads. The spread occurs through respiratory droplets sent to the air when a person who has the COVID-19 flu coughs/sneezes. It can also spread if someone touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their mouth, the inside of their nose, or their eyes. Current evidence suggests that the incubation period of the virus is anywhere from 2-14 days.
Now that this bit is clear, let's move to answer some of the most asked-questions and concerns that pregnant women have:
- Does contracting the coronavirus increase the risk of miscarriage or other such complications?
An increased risk of miscarriage or fetal malformations has not been documented in pregnant women who are infected with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Based on data from other coronaviruses, such as SARS and MERS, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists notes that pregnant women who get COVID-19 may have a higher risk for some complications, such as preterm birth. However, this data is extremely limited, and the infection may not be the direct cause of preterm birth.
- What can a pregnant mother do to avoid catching the coronavirus?
The most important step is to practice excellent hand hygiene by frequently washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, mouth, and nose. Public health officials urge people to tightly limit gatherings and to stay home as much as possible. Social distancing is important to limit the spread of the virus. It’s safe to go out for walks — just try to remain six feet away from anyone who doesn’t live with you.
If you have a mild cough or cold, stay at home and limit exposures to other people. Sneeze and cough into a tissue that you discard immediately, or into your elbow, to avoid making others sick. Hydration and adequate rest also are important in maintaining the health of your immune system.
- What is the risk of passing on the virus on to one’s fetus or newborn?
Currently, only small studies reporting on a limited number of cases are available to answer many questions, including this one. Most of the women in these case reports had COVID-19 during the third trimester of pregnancy.
- A study of nine pregnant women who were infected with COVID-19 and had symptoms showed that none of their babies was affected by the virus. The virus was not present in amniotic fluid, the babies’ throats, or in breast milk.
- Another study of 38 women infected with COVID-19 found that none of the newborns tested positive for the disease.
- Two case reports of infants born to mothers infected with SARS-CoV-2 demonstrated that the infants had elevated levels of antibodies to the virus but did not demonstrate any clinical evidence of infection with the virus (see here and here).
- Another case report analyzing 33 pregnant women infected with SARS-CoV-2 found that three of their newborns were also infected with the virus and had clinical signs of infection, as well as confirmation of COVID-19 infection. It is unclear whether these newborns were infected while in the womb or if these infections were acquired after birth, as the newborns were tested when they were days old. The possibility of vertical transmission (passing the virus from mother to baby) has not been ruled out.
The risk of passing the infection to a fetus appears to be very low. Currently there is no evidence of any fetal malformations or effects due to maternal infection with COVID-19.
If a woman has an infection with a high fever during the first trimester, it’s safest to use acetaminophen to lower temperature to avoid risk to the developing fetus.
- Will all the doctors be diverted in case of a COVID-19 emergency situation and is it possible that there might be no doctor available at the time a woman has to deliver her baby?
Hospitals are responsible for making contingency plans for emergencies that might require diverting hospital staff. Ask your obstetric team about contingency plans at your hospital. They should be able to keep you updated on any change in plans. At our hospital, there is currently no plan for obstetricians to be redeployed. Obstetrics is an essential component of health, and it is likely that a physician trained in obstetrics will be present at the time of your baby’s birth. Ask your health care team about this.
- Could spending time in the hospital after delivery increase the mother’s risk of exposure to COVID-19?
Hospital staff and your obstetric team are trying to minimize the number of people who come to the hospital. There are rules to make sure that anyone who needs to be evaluated for COVID-19 will be isolated from other patients. All medical staff are working hard to ensure that your risk of being exposed to COVID-19 is low.
In the hospital, many precautions are being taken to minimize exposure risks. If you choose to do so, it may be possible to go home sooner than you normally would after birth, as long as you feel well and your birth was uncomplicated. Talk to your obstetric team about this.
- If the mother is tested positive for COVID-19, can she still breastfeed her baby?
Currently, there is no evidence of the virus in breast milk. Given that the virus is spread through respiratory droplets, mothers should wash their hands and consider wearing a face mask to minimize infants’ exposure to the virus. The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists recommends that mothers infected with COVID-19 express breastmilk to allow someone else to feed the baby. (Be sure to use proper hand hygiene and cleaning of breast pump parts.)
However, the CDC states that handwashing and wearing a face mask should minimize risks to the infant.
We hope you found this article useful :)