For families expecting a baby during COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, it may be stressful and frightening. Unfortunately, it’s still too early to draw conclusions about how the novel coronavirus affects pregnant women and their babies. But physicians and researchers continue to observe and collect anecdotal evidence – and in the meantime, hospitals are putting in protections like limiting visitor policies out of an abundance of caution.
The doctor community is learning more every day and need further research to better understand how the virus affects moms and their babies. Following are some of the top concerns about pregnancy and COVID-19.
Does COVID-19 impact pregnant women differently?
People with some health conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, or heart disease, have a higher risk of becoming sicker from COVID-19. But at this time, there isn’t any evidence to suggest that pregnant women without underlying health conditions are more likely to have serious complications, be hospitalized or need ICU care if they are infected with the virus. However, there isn’t a lot of data to be 100% certain of this.
Unlike other infectious diseases like influenza, which can cause severe illness in pregnant women because of changes in the immune system during pregnancy.
Should pregnant women take extra precautions during COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak?
There is nothing about pregnancy itself that makes a woman more susceptible to being infected, so they should follow the same guidance as everyone else. This includes proper hand-washing (at least 20 seconds using warm water and soap), not touching your face, nose, eyes or mouth and following aggressive social distancing (not going out unless you absolutely have to and staying six feet apart from others.)
Transmission spreads from person to person primarily through close contact with respiratory droplets (such as through coughs and sneezes) that can travel up to six feet.
Are there risks of transmitting the virus from mom to infant?
So, far there are no indications that COVID-19 can be transmitted to an unborn baby. After birth, transmission is possible if there’s exposure to a COVID-19-positive caregiver, including the mother.
Early observations also suggest that newborns are less likely to show symptoms of the infection or get serious forms of it. There isn’t enough information to know if that’s because babies are less likely to get infected after birth or just aren’t getting sick as frequently from the virus as adults.
Can a baby be infected from breastmilk?
So far, the virus has not been found in breastmilk and there’s no evidence to suggest it’s transmittable this way. However, the close contact with a COVID-19-positive caregiver while feeding a baby would increase risk of spreading the virus.
This is why it is recommend that delivering moms who test positive for the virus and choose to breastfeed consider pumping milk during a temporary period after birth to protect newborns from the risk of contracting the virus.
Are symptoms different in pregnant women?
A small study of 215 pregnant women at two New York hospitals recently found a surprising number of asymptomatic women who tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Of the 33 women who tested positive, 29 (88%) did not have symptoms. This doesn’t necessarily mean COVID-19-positive pregnant women are less likely to show symptoms. It does, however, offer clues about the prevalence of people who have unknowingly been infected with the virus and aren’t showing symptoms but are still contagious – among both pregnant women and the general population.
Should families change their labor and delivery plans?
Expecting mothers should talk to their doctors about the birth plan. Most hospitals are adjusting their policies to limit exposure risks during the pandemic, such as limiting the number of people who can be in the room during delivery.
Hospital or a hospital-based birth center is still the safest place to give birth. This environment ensures access to necessary care in cases of unanticipated complications, which can happen even in the healthiest pregnancies.
What should you do if you’re pregnant and think you have COVID-19?
If you think you may have been exposed to the coronavirus and have a fever or cough, rush to your nearest COVID-19 center. Symptoms to watch out for include shortness of breath that is more than what has been normal during your pregnancy, ongoing pain or pressure in your chest, blue lips, confusion or inability to respond to others.
What should you do if you’re pregnant and diagnosed with COVID-19?
Pregnant women who are diagnosed with COVID-19 should follow the advice of their doctor. This includes staying home except to get medical care, avoiding public transportation and crowded spaces and keeping a safe distance from others in their home.
Should pregnant women be changing what they eat or drink?
Getting infected with coronavirus from food products or packaging that are shipped at refrigerated, or frozen temperatures is extremely rare and not risky.
There is also no evidence that any specific foods or drinks help prevent being infected with the virus – which has falsely been shared on some websites and social media.