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Are pregnant women at a higher risk of COVID-19 infection?
Pregnant women are considered an at-risk population for Coronavirus (COVID-19), with some being more vulnerable than others due to the physiologic and immune changes that occur during pregnancy.
But all in all, there isn’t enough research on the topic to know for sure if pregnant women are more susceptible or vulnerable to COVID-19 than the general public. In other words, no conclusive data are available to establish that pregnant women are more likely to contract the virus or develop a serious illness as a result of it.
Since this is a novel virus that has only recently been discovered, its effects on pregnant women and infants remain largely unexplored.
The medical community is only beginning to understand how this virus operates and spreads and what damage it causes by studying the first wave of patients, only a fraction of whom are pregnant women.
Moreover, the virus keeps mutating and evolving, which means one cannot pin down its characteristics just yet.
This preliminary knowledge is insufficient to formulate any recommendations or guidelines for the evaluation and management of COVID-19 that are specific to childbearing women.
However, pregnant women with a severe case of COVID-19 have reportedly faced complications, such as miscarriage, preterm labor, preterm birth, and stillbirth. Thus, regardless of the risk involved, it is important to exercise special precautions when you are carrying another life inside you.
Can the unborn child catch the virus from an infected mother?
There isn’t any conclusive evidence to suggest that Coronavirus can breach through the placenta into the uterus in order to affect the fetus, so the jury is still out on that one.
However, a small recent study surveyed the infants born to COVID-19-positive mothers and found that none of the newborns tested positive for the infection. (2)
What precautions should be taken by a pregnant woman against COVID-19 infection?
There are no separate guidelines for pregnant women to avoid the infection. Given the dearth of information regarding this unprecedented strain of the virus, it is still unknown if any specific measures or precautions can help pregnant women cope with this pandemic.
However, scientists and disease-control experts have come up with a universal set of rules for containing and combating the virus, which applies to everyone. So, pregnant women, like any other person, should adhere to the following:
- Social distancing is the topmost priority to keep the infection from spreading.
- Always cover your cough, either with your elbow or with a clean tissue, which must be thrown in the trash bin soon after using. If you cover your mouth with your hands while coughing, make sure to wash them with soap and water before touching anything else.
- Keep your distance from people who appear sick.
- Wash your hands often using soap and water or clean them with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Wearing a mask can also help protect against COVID-19 infection despite previous beliefs that it is not helpful.
- Most importantly, stay at home as much as possible.
What are some of the key precautions for pregnant women who are diagnosed with COVID-19?
Monitor your symptoms closely and call your healthcare provider if your symptoms begin to worsen or if you develop breathing difficulties and/or chest pain.
What extra prenatal care should be given to a pregnant woman infected with COVID-19?
Most pregnant women infected with COVID-19 will have mild symptoms, in which case they are typically recommended to:
Staying in touch with your physician or provider is also important, and you must reach out to him/her as soon as you notice any adverse changes, such as worsening of your fever and cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
You may take Tylenol for pain and fever, but you should call your provider first to alert them to the fact that your fever is worsening.
If you develop worsening symptoms and meet the particular criteria for moderate or severe cases, you will most likely need hospitalization for further care.
Will the newborn of an infected mother be tested for COVID-19?
Yes, presently, all newborns of an infected mother will be tested for COVID-19. However, this may change in the future as everything about this disease is changing nearly daily, based on the latest discoveries.
Do pregnant women suffering from COVID-19 need to give birth by cesarean section?
No, vaginal birth is preferable for those who are candidates for vaginal delivery. A COVID-19 infection itself does not warrant a cesarean delivery.
Is it safe to breastfeed while suffering from COVID-19?
Yes, as no evidence is currently available to suggest that the virus responsible for COVID-19 is present in breast milk. Breastfeeding is still encouraged for its many benefits, including protecting your baby against illnesses.
If you choose to breastfeed, precautions are recommended, such as wearing a mask while breastfeeding or pumping into a bottle and having someone who is not sick feed the baby, again all with meticulous hand hygiene.
Can an infected woman touch her newborn baby?
Presently, there are two choices concerning this, with the final decision being made by the patient and provider with shared decision making:
- Maternal-infant separation into separate rooms
- Sharing a room and using safety precautions such as masks, gloves, and careful handwashing.
What complications can COVID-19 cause during pregnancy?
Complications reported in COVID-19-positive mothers are miscarriage, preterm labor and birth, stillbirth in severe illness, hospitalization, pneumonia, and even maternal death in rare cases.
How important are antenatal appointments when infected with the novel coronavirus?
Presently, if you are positive for COVID-19, you will not be permitted to attend an office appointment and will likely have a telehealth prenatal visit through telephone and/or video technology.