Top COVID-19 Questions From Moms-to-Be, Answered
The rapid spread of COVID-19 has pregnant women understandably concerned about their health and that of their developing child. And with the situation changing day to day, it’s no wonder we’re bursting with questions. Here, an ob-gyn tackles the top questions she’s been getting about the novel coronavirus and how to keep women safe during pregnancy.
We currently don’t know, but there are currently no data to suggest that pregnant women are more likely to get COVID-19. However, we do know that pregnant women undergo changes to their immune systems that may make it easier to become infected with any virus, including COVID-19. Additionally, if a pregnant woman does become infected, they may be at higher risk of more serious disease. Therefore, all pregnant women should practice social distancing and frequent, proper hand-washing.
Right now we don’t know much, but while data is limited, so far it’s reassuring. Currently, there has been NO evidence to suggest that COVID-19 leads to an increase in miscarriage, stillbirth or birth defects in babies. Additionally, we have not found a risk of vertical transmission—meaning transmission in-utero, during delivery or through breast milk—and this is consistent with other coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS.
A small case series reported that a group of infants born to mothers who tested positive for COVID-19 were negative. However, there has also been a report of a mom who was positive for COVID-19, and whose newborn became infected shortly after birth; therefore, it’s possible that newborns can become infected if they’re in close proximity to an infected individual. (Hospitals are putting plans in place to address this.)
The most important recommendations pregnant women can follow are to practice social distancing and adequate hand-washing to decrease their risk of infection.
Follow local and federal guidelines. Right now, it’s critical that we flatten the curve of infected individuals or else we run the risk of overwhelming the supply of medical equipment for those who may need it.
Individual cities and states all have different guidelines, but right now the CDC and federal government recommend:
- Practice social distancing
- Wash your hands with soap and water properly and frequently. If you can’t wash your hands, use hand sanitizer
- Cover your sneeze or cough with your arm or a tissue and throw the tissue away
- If you are sick, stay home and quarantine for at least two weeks!
- If you are symptomatic, wear a face mask to reduce the risk of spread to others
- Wipe down frequently touched items such as your cell phones, wallets, keys, computers, etc.
- Those who are immunocompromised should stay home and only leave the house for essential needs
You should discuss this with your ob-gyn. Many clinics are changing their policies and trying to do more telemedicine appointments, but this may not be possible for prenatal visits. When you do go to appointments, practice social distancing and wash your hands with soap and water.
Allergies and the common cold may present with itchy or watery eyes and a runny nose or congestion. If you routinely get allergies this time of the season or your symptoms are mild, it’s likely you have a cold or seasonal allergies. Most symptoms are limited to the nasal passages.
Symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu are more systemic and include fever greater than 100.4, chills, sore throat, a cough and overall body aches. COVID-19 may be more likely if you have the above symptoms and you recently traveled, had recent exposure to someone positive for COVD-19 or have shortness of breath.
The CDC has said that the general population does not need to wear a face mask while out in public, since it won’t prevent you from catching the disease. However, people who are symptomatic or are taking care of others who are symptomatic should wear a face mask to decrease the risk of spread to others. Our medical system is being overwhelmed right now and it’s important to save face masks for sick individuals and for healthcare providers.
It’s likely that all hospitals are developing contingency plans regarding hospital beds and how to handle a possible influx of patients. As you enter your third trimester you can discuss with your ob-gyn what changes your delivery hospital may be making over the next few weeks and how this may impact you. If COVID-19 is still active in your community, there will likely be limitations on the visitors and guests allowed in your room and extra measures set up to screen any individuals coming into the hospital. If you have other children, I would recommend having a plan in place for childcare in case your hospital is not allowing visitors.
Continue to follow guidelines put out by local and federal government. Practice social distancing, limit the number of individuals who are around you and your baby and avoid any sick individuals. Newborns are at especially high risk of infections since their immune systems are still developing, so make sure to wash your hands with soap and water (or use hand sanitizer if you’re unable to wash your hands) before picking up your baby. This is a difficult time and everyone wants to share in the joy of a new baby being born, but it’s important to keep you and your newborn safe.
Currently hospitals are putting plans together in preparation for the event that a woman positive for COVID-19 or is considered a person under suspicion (PUI) delivers a newborn. These plans may include temporary room separation of the infected woman and her newborn and also limiting the number of individuals in the delivery room. I would recommend speaking to your ob-gyn and delivery hospital for these details.
Right now, individual hospitals will likely have their own policies set up for who can visit you in the hospital and how many individuals can be with you in the delivery room. All individuals should consider local or federal guidelines and those who are at highest risk of serious illness should avoid any situation in which they may place themselves at greater risk of contracting the illness. I would recommend asking your ob-gyn or delivery hospital about their current policies on visitors and support persons allowed in the delivery room.
The situation is evolving, and updated recommendations and policies are being implemented on an ongoing basis. For continued up-to-date information, be sure to check the CDC’s guidelines on COVID-19.
About the author:
Temeka Zore, MD, is a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist as well as a board-certified ob-gynt currently practicing in Los Angeles at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Southern California. She enjoys taking care of a wide range of reproductive and fertility issues but has a special passion for fertility preservation and educating and empowering women regarding their reproductive health. Follow Zore on Instagram @temekazoremd.
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.
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