Although the world has faced several major pandemics over the last 100 years, one of the worst was the 1918 influenza pandemic, also called the Spanish flu. At its worst, the Spanish flu infected 500 million people worldwide across all ages, genders, and health status. Today, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has threatened and taken the lives of over one million people worldwide.
Unlike the Spanish flu, the coronavirus mostly affects adults over the age of 65 with underlying health conditions while children and healthy adults typically have much milder symptoms. However, for pregnant women, COVID-19 poses a unique risk.
Understand The Risk
According to the CDC, while pregnant women might be at an increased risk for severe illness if they contract coronavirus compared to non-pregnant people, both pregnant and non-pregnant women are equally likely to recover from the virus, if no underlying conditions are present.
According to Harvard Medical School, when pregnant women become infected with COVID-19, they’re significantly more likely to be admitted to the hospital and to need mechanical ventilation than non-pregnant women infected with COVID-19.
Do Pregnant Women Have An Increased Risk of Miscarriage?
Among pregnant women infected with COVID-19, no increased risk of fetal malformations or miscarriage has been recorded, according to the CDC. Based on data from other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS, pregnant women who get coronavirus 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.
Keeping Yourself Safe
Limiting exposure to COVID-19 is critical if you’re pregnant. It is just as critical after giving birth, especially if you have a pre-existing condition. The most important precaution is to wear a mask when in confined, crowded spaces and frequently wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, mouth, and nose. Social distancing is also a crucial step in limiting the spread of the virus, so avoid gathering with people outside of your household and stay home as much as possible.
Yes, it is safe to go out for walks as long as you remain six feet away from anyone who doesn’t live with you and wear a cloth or medical mask in public, especially in places where it’s hard to carefully observe social distancing. If you have a mild cough or cold, stay at home and limit exposure to other people. Sneeze and cough into a tissue that you discard immediately, or into your elbow, to avoid making others sick then wash your hands with antibacterial soap and water.
Should Pregnant Women Continue In-Person Prenatal Visits?
While it’s important to limit contact with other people, prenatal visits are important to ensure maternal and fetal health. We suggest you continue to visit your healthcare provider for all recommended appointments. It’s important to stay in open communication, whether on or offline, about staying healthy and taking care of yourself and your baby. You’ll also want to keep in touch regarding your birth plan in case it changes at the last minute.
If you’re concerned about going to your appointments because of COVID-19, you’re not alone! Ask your doctor about the steps they’re taking to separate healthy patients from those who may be sick. Many are cancelling or postponing some visits, others are switching to virtual appointments, while others are holding normal visits after evaluating the patient and clinic’s overall risk of infection.
Make sure you always feel comfortable with your doctor’s safety precautions, especially if you’re immunocompromised.
Decide If Your Newborn Will Room With You
The ideal setting for the care of a healthy, full-term newborn during birth hospitalization is within the mother’s room. It’s known as “rooming-in.” The risk of a newborn getting COVID-19 from their mother is low, especially when she uses appropriate precautions before and during care of the newborn, such as wearing a mask and practicing hand hygiene.
If you test positive for COVID-19, talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of having your newborn stay in the same room with you. Having your newborn room-in has the benefit of facilitating breastfeeding and maternal-newborn bonding. After discussing with your healthcare provider, make an informed decision of whether your newborn is staying in the same room with you while in the hospital.
What If You Have Coronavirus?
Currently, data is limited on the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission from mother to fetus. However, from the data available, it appears the risk of passing the infection to a fetus is very low and there’s no evidence that a mother’s infection with the coronavirus leads to fetal malformations.
If a new mother tests positive for COVID-19, it’s important to minimize opportunities for potential exposure to the new baby. While there’s currently no evidence that the virus can be transmitted via breast milk, it is spread through respiratory droplets. However, it’s critical to stay as safe as possible when feeding. In fact, new mothers should wear masks while within 6 feet of their newborn and constantly wash their hands. Someone else can feed the baby, but it’s important for them to also observe a rigorous hand washing routine, wear a mask while feeding, and sanitize all the bottles and equipment.
For new moms who test positive for COVID-19, be sure to help keep the other members of your household safe! Even though tough, try and stay isolated from others in your household and practice good hygiene and mask-wearing until the isolation period ends.
* If you had symptoms, your isolation period ends after:
* 10 days since symptoms first appeared, and
* 24 hours of no fever without fever-reducing medications, and
* Other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving
If you never had symptoms, your isolation period ends after:
10 days since the date of your positive COVID-19 test
A quick note, while working to keep your infant safe, do not put a mask on your newborn. A face covering increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or accidental suffocation and strangulation. Babies move frequently and their movement may cause the face shield to block their nose and mouth or cause the strap to strangle them.
The CDC recommends that everyone older than two years wear a mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in their household.
Staying In The Hospital After Delivery
For many hospitals, rules are in place to make sure that anyone who needs to be evaluated for COVID-19 will be isolated from other patients and they’re working to minimize the number of people who come to the hospital to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Talk with your doctor about the risks you’ll face by staying at the hospital and the specific safety precautions the facility is taking. If you choose to stay at the hospital, you may go home sooner than you normally would after birth, as long as you feel well and your birth was uncomplicated.
Planning For Newborn Doctor Visits
Typically, newborn visits are done in person; during these visits, your doctor can check how you and your baby are doing. Infant growth and feedings are evaluated. Your doctor will also make sure newborn screenings are done and do any necessary follow-up testing.
If you or your baby contract coronavirus, make sure to notify your doctor before attending an in-person appointment. Your doctor may postpone your visit or schedule you at an outpatient clinic if your baby needs immediate healthcare intervention. Make sure you’re in communication with your doctor if you feel ill at all, especially in the weeks following your delivery.
Stock Up On Medical Supplies and Vaccines
Since access to medical care in some places might be limited for elected care, it’s important to get the recommended vaccines during pregnancy to help protect you and your baby.
Since the flu and COVID-19 are both respiratory illnesses that can spread from person to person they can affect breathing and have similar symptoms, even though they are caused by different viruses. The implications of these two viruses coexisting during flu season are unknown, so you should protect yourself against the flu by getting vaccinated. Others living in your household should also get vaccinated to protect themselves and you.
You should also get the whooping cough (Tdap) vaccine during pregnancy to protect your baby against whooping cough, which can also present similar symptoms to COVID-19.
It’s important to get these vaccines early to avoid putting an additional burden on healthcare facilities already taxed with COVID-19 cases. The same goes for getting your medication. Ask your doctor and pharmacy to give you at least a 30-day supply of the medicines you need to avoid having to go out to pharmacies or healthcare facilities that may still be overburdened with patients infected with coronavirus.
Mommas, we understand that these are trying and difficult times for all of you. Regardless of whether this is your first pregnancy or not, so many unknowns lead to increased worry and anxiety. You are not alone in this. If you feel like you need to talk about how you feel or have any questions or concerns regarding COVID-19 and pregnancy, please feel free to reach out to The Source or to your healthcare provider.