According to health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pregnant women are more susceptible to respiratory infections, and this could potentially include the coronavirus.
There are more research and data needed to know the exact consequences of pregnancy during coronavirus, however, the mortality from similar respiratory infections such as SARS-CoV and influenza was higher in pregnant women. Therefore, until more research comes in about COVID-19, pregnancy during coronavirus is to be considered high risk.
During pregnancy, there are certain immunological and physiological changes that make the body more prone to infection, and less able to fight the virus. In such a scenario, pregnant women need to take certain precautions. Read on to know what measures must be taken for safe pregnancy during coronavirus:
How to protect yourself?
If you are pregnant, you need to first practice social distancing diligently. Avoid going out unnecessarily, and avoid the use of public transport if possible. If you are a working lady, try working from home whenever possible; otherwise, reach out to your employer and talk to them about minimizing your exposure.
Keep in touch through remote technology, so that your exposure to the outside world is limited. Remember, you are at higher risk than the general population, and therefore, you should take stricter measures.
The protocols set by the healthcare officials should be adhered to, and any unnecessary social gathering should be eschewed. For pregnant ladies in the third trimester (28 weeks pregnant or more), social distancing is crucial and they should reduce all unnecessary social contact.
For antenatal care, if you are well, you should attend them as normal. However, if you are having suspicious symptoms of possible coronavirus, then check with your doctor to see if you can avoid your visit until the isolation period is over.
If you have routine scans planned ahead, then contact your OBGYN and see if they can schedule your appointment such that minimal staff is present.
Anyone who is displaying symptoms of the corona, or even general flu, you should not come in contact with them, or at least maintain a distance of more than six feet from the latter. Be careful when coughing or sneezing, and use a tissue when doing so.
Other tips for safe pregnancy during coronavirus include diligent hand washing. Wash your hands for at least twenty seconds—including the back of hands, under the nails, and wrists; remember to wash the hands especially before eating.
What about pregnant healthcare professionals?
For women who are in the first or second trimester, and have no underlying chronic disease, they can continue to care for patients provided that they have Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Thorough risk assessment should be taken if you are caring for suspicious or confirmed patients of COVID-19. For women working in high-risk environments like operating theaters, high dependency units/intensive care and respiratory wards, PPEs are mandatory.
For women in the third trimester or those who have an underlying chronic disease, direct contact with the patient should be avoided. Hospitals should ensure that they are not putting their healthcare personnel at risk. Moreover, hospitals should ensure that there is no contact of the pregnant healthcare personnel with patients, and they can work flexibly in a different capacity.
What about breastfeeding?
In the limited number of cases reported to date, no virus was found in the breast milk of COVID-19 positive women. However, nothing can be said surely about the transmission of virus through breast milk.
If and how to start breastfeeding, it should be determined by the mother and her healthcare team. A mother is more likely to transmit the virus to the baby through respiratory droplets, rather than breast milk. Therefore, when breastfeeding, mothers should take special care of their hygiene practices and wear masks if need be.
Effect on the baby
While there is limited research about pregnancy during the corona pandemic, there have been cases where infants born to COVID-19 positive mothers showed adverse outcomes, like preterm labor.
This was seen in some women in China, who gave birth, prematurely. However, as mentioned before, this conclusion is based on limited research, and the exact effect of the virus on the baby has not yet been determined.
Furthermore, it is still unclear if the virus travels through the placental route to the baby. So far, all the babies born to COVID-19 positive mothers did not test positive for the virus.
There were two cases whereby vertical transmission was suspected, but so far, it is unclear whether this transmission happened before or after birth. To date, experts are of the opinion that the mother does not transmit the virus to the baby, and no problems occur with the baby’s development.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will continue to monitor the situation of pregnancy during coronavirus and will come up with guidelines pertaining to the health of mother and child. This information will be shared as soon as it becomes available.
In case of suspicious symptoms, do reach out to the test centers set up by the government of Pakistan, and quarantine yourself until confirmation of disease.