Expecting a baby is one of the most exciting things a person can experience, but being pregnant during a pandemic can be nerve-wracking. If you are currently expecting a child, there are probably a lot of questions and concerns going through your head—how will the current health crisis affect you, your unborn child, and your family? How will it affect your pregnancy and delivery? Are you or your unborn child at a greater risk of contracting the novel coronavirus?
Here, we at the Law Firm of Michael H. Bereston have put together 7 things to know about pregnancy during COVID-19, including what we do know about how the virus affects (and doesn’t affect) pregnant women and newborns. Continue reading to learn more!
Does COVID-19 Affect Pregnant Women Differently?
According to major health organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no evidence that the novel coronavirus affects pregnant women differently than it affects anyone else. However, the CDC also notes that pregnant women are at a heightened risk of contracting other respiratory illnesses, which can lead to negative outcomes for both mothers and unborn children. As such, the CDC recommends that pregnant women be mindful about reducing their risk of exposure to COVID-19.
What Steps Should Pregnant Women Take to Avoid Contracting the Coronavirus?
Like everyone, pregnant women should follow certain safety practices to avoid coming into contact with and/or contracting COVID-19. These steps include frequently washing their hands, disinfecting high-touch surfaces, laundering clothing and other items, wearing face coverings when in public, and covering sneezes and coughs. Pregnant women should also observe social distancing, maintaining at least six feet of distance between themselves and anyone else they do not live with. Note that these steps are not exclusive to pregnant women; partners and household members should also follow these guidelines to promote a safer home.
Can COVID-19 Be Transferred from the Mother to an Unborn Child?
To date, there is little evidence that the novel coronavirus can be transmitted from an infected mother to her unborn child. According to Harvard Health, only a few small studies have looked at this issue. In one study of nine pregnant women who tested positive for COVID-19, there was no evidence of the virus in the amniotic fluid or in the breastmilk. The babies in this study also did not show evidence of the virus in their throats. Another study of 38 infected pregnant women found that none of their babies were born with the virus. One study involving 33 pregnant women with SARS-CoV-2 found that three of their babies were also infected; however, it is not clear whether the newborns contracted the coronavirus while in the womb or in the hospital/after being born. For further guidelines specific to pregnancy, labor and delivery and newborn care of Covid-19 suspected infected patients or confirmed infected patients please see the guidelines from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine (SMFM) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Does COVID-19 Lead to a Higher Risk of Miscarriage or Other Pregnancy Complications?
Currently, there is no documented data showing a connection between COVID-19 infection and a heightened risk of miscarriage, according to the CDC. Additionally, there is no evidence that a positive coronavirus diagnosis in the mother leads to fetal malformations or other complications. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, there is extremely limited data showing that pregnant women who contract COVID-19 may be at a higher risk of preterm birth, but there is no evidence that the infection itself is a direct cause of this complication.
Is There an Increased Risk of Exposure when Attending Pre-Natal Appointments?
There could be a heightened risk of being exposed to COVID-19 any time a person must go out into public. However, pre-natal appointments are a critical part of ensuring the health of both the mother and the baby. We recommend that you discuss your needs with your obstetrician. Many providers are extending the length of time between visits, consolidating visits, or having some low-risk women conduct at-home blood pressure monitoring. Always discuss your health care plan with your provider, and never skip any appointments unless instructed to do so.
Will My Partner/Family Be Able to Attend the Birth?
The current pandemic may affect how you give birth. Unfortunately, this means that your birth plan, including who can be present at the birth, may need to change. Many hospitals are limiting the number of people allowed in the delivery room to the mother and the delivery team. If your partner or a single other family member does not show any symptoms of COVID-19 and/or tests negative for the virus, they may be able to attend the birth. However, if your partner or family member is exhibiting coronavirus symptoms or has tested positively for COVID-19, they will likely not be permitted in the delivery room. This is for the health and safety of yourself, your baby, and the doctors and nurses present.
Can I Breastfeed My Baby If I Have COVID-19?
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as well as numerous other health care organizations, reports that there is currently no evidence of the novel coronavirus in breastmilk. According to all available evidence, it is safe to give your baby breastmilk. However, because COVID-19 can be spread through respiratory droplets, it is recommended that mothers who have tested positive for or are showing symptoms of COVID-19 express breastmilk for someone else to feed to their babies. Be sure to wash your hands frequently and clean and disinfect breast pump parts properly. Even mothers who have not tested positive for the coronavirus and who are not showing symptoms should wear a face covering when feeding their babies and wash their hands often in order to reduce the risk of exposure to their babies.