About Pregnancy and COVID-19

In late 2019 and early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly started to spread around the world. With every country and a majority of outlying islands being plagued by this novel coronavirus, it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re staying healthy. While it seems that elderly people are more likely to develop serious complications due to COVID-19, they’re not the only ones in the high-risk categories. The information surrounding this respiratory disease is still limited, but as of now it seems like pregnant women do not necessarily have a greater chance of catching COVID-19. Their risk is instead, similar to a non-pregnant adult. However, this doesn’t mean that it should be taken as conclusive scientific statements. Like we mentioned, it’s still too early to fully understand and there isn’t enough data to make any conclusions. With that being said, it’s important to educate yourself as much as possible. To help you, we’ve put together what to know about pregnancy and COVID-19.

What is COVID-19?

Without going too deep into this topic, you should understand that COVID-19 is not the only coronavirus that we’ve seen. Coronavirus simply refers to a specific family of viruses, many of which cause simple, mild colds. Almost everyone will be infected with some type of coronavirus at some point throughout their life, so making the distinction between “coronavirus” and COVID-19 is important. COVID-19 is the newest strain of coronavirus that’s been shown to infect humans. It’s been compared more to MERS and SARS due to the high rate of infection and severity of illness.

How COVID-19 Spreads

On January 30, 2020, the United States reported its first case of human-to-human transmission. Since then, we’ve learned that the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is easily spread throughout the community. This means that COVID-19 will spread from an infected person to healthy individuals through respiratory droplets in the air. This can be from coughing, sneezing, or even talking in close proximity. If you shake hands with an infected person who has not washed their hands immediately before, the virus can spread. Similarly, touching a surface that’s been contaminated and then touching your face will also lead to infection.

The rate of infection for COVID-19 is much higher than it is for the flu, which is why so many states and countries around the world are on lock down. What’s worse is that many people can be infected with COVID-19 and be asymptomatic. Even though they don’t show symptoms, they’re still carrying the virus—without knowing—and can spread it to others around them.

Because of this, it’s important to keep an eye out for any symptoms. Symptoms usually present themselves anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure. The primary symptoms of COVID-19 are: 

  • High Grade Fever
  • Dry Cough
  • Shortness of Breath

These symptoms can be mild or severe. If you feel like you could have COVID-19 and are pregnant, call your doctor immediately. This will allow you to learn the proper protocol to keep you and your baby safe if you need to go into the doctor or hospital.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Pregnancy

One thing that we have to keep in mind is that while data is inconclusive regarding the direct impact of COVID-19 and pregnancy, it’s still a respiratory illness. When we compare this to the effect of other respiratory illnesses, like the flu, we get a better understanding at the possible worst-case-scenarios. We know that pregnant women are more likely to get the flu than non-pregnant adults and that when they do get it, they’re at a higher risk for severe, complicated cases.3 With this information, we should assume that COVID-19 could present similarly. As we said, this data is still inconclusive as there are very sparse reports of pregnant women becoming infected from COVID-19 thus far—likely due to the stringent social distancing regulations that are currently in place. With that being said, here are some things to consider.

Pregnancy and the Risk of COVID-19

We know that pregnancy increases your risk of respiratory illnesses and tend to make them more serious and susceptible to complications. Pregnant women are also more immunocompromised than others,2 since their body is using an extensive amount of resources to carry your baby through a healthy development. If we take these two pieces of information, we start to understand how COVID-19 could affect pregnant women. However, according to the World Health Organization, there is currently no evidence that pregnant women are at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 than the general population. With this information, it’s still highly encouraged to eliminate your chances of exposure. 

The Impact of COVID-19 on a Fetus

With the limited amount of information available, it’s too early to tell how COVID-19 could affect a fetus in the womb.4 There have been no cases where a pregnant woman was infected with COVID-19 and prenatal care visits showed any changes to the fetus. Doctors are not entirely sure whether or not COVID-19 can pass to the fetus during pregnancy. Doctors are hoping to learn more about this as the pandemic continues, but hopefully the preventative measures put in place will help eliminate any future problems.

Newborns and COVID-19

Doctors have noted that some pregnant women who have been infected with COVID-19 have given birth to preterm babies.4 Unfortunately, this it’s unclear about whether the preterm birth is related to maternal infection or outside causes. We have seen early research showing that pregnant women who give birth have not transmitted COVID-19 to their newborns, but that doesn’t mean that transmission is not possible. There is absolutely no information saying that having a voluntary caesarean is safer than vaginal delivery, so there’s no need to make changes to your birth plan.

While we’ve seen data that shows that children and babies tend to have less severe COVID-19 symptoms, newborns are more susceptible to illness.3 If your baby is less than one year old, they’re considered more at-risk than others and proper precautions should be taken to reduce exposure.

How COVID-19 Affects Prenatal and Postpartum Care Visits

So far, the biggest impact that COVID-19 has had on pregnant women is how it affects their prenatal and postpartum care visits. With shelter-in-place initiatives in almost every state, getting to your doctor is more difficult. Before doing anything, call your OB-GYN. Every state and health care professional currently have different protocols on how they handle required in-patient doctor’s visits. When possible, visits might be conducted over the phone or through a video call. When you need to go into the office for an ultrasound or blood work, your doctor will help make sure that you are as protected as possible. Many OB-GYN offices are taking precautions and only having one patient in at a time to limit exposure, but it’s important to confirm these procedures with your doctor specifically.

Post-Delivery Information

If you are infected with COVID-19, it’s important to take the necessary precautions to reduce transmission to your newborn, but that doesn’t mean you have to separate from them. Close, skin-to-skin contact is important for your baby’s development. To make sure you’re staying safe, practice good respiratory hygiene, hold your newborn in skin-to-skin contact, and just make sure to wash your hands frequently. Talk to your doctor to learn more about what to expect post-delivery if you know you’re infected.

Breastfeeding and COVID-19

In multiple tests done, so far COVID-19 has not been found in any of the breast milk of women who’ve tested positive. This means that breastfeeding your baby is safe, even if you are infected. However, it is recommended that you do not nurse directly, as transmission could occur in other ways. If you need to directly nurse, it’s important to cover your face and nose, wash your hands and breast thoroughly, and clean any surfaces that you come in contact with.

How to Stay Safe During Pregnancy

The best way to stay safe during pregnancy is to stay healthy, wash your hands frequently, and avoid going in public. When you limit your exposure to COVID-19, you drastically limit the chances that you’ll catch it. Have your partner go for groceries as sparingly as possible and make sure to take the proper steps to disinfect your items before putting them away. If you need to go out, always practice social distancing.

What’s even more important is taking care of yourself during this time. Try to eat nutritious foods and get regular exercise in the comfort of your home. Take time each day to turn off the news, unplug from social media, and get in touch with your friends or family members. Continually plugging into the COVID-19 updates creates a lot of stress, anxiety, and even fear—all of which should be avoided during pregnancy. Take this time to focus on you, start a new hobby, or simply relax with a good book. If you have any questions or concerns at any time, call your doctor.

Conclusion

While we’re living in uncertain times, one thing’s for sure: you’re going to have a baby! Try to focus on all of the positive things that are coming while taking as many preventative measures as possible. To help you prepare, don’t forget that the Affordable Care Act means expectant mothers are eligible to receive an electric breast pump covered by their insurance provider!

We could all use a little more support during these times, so we encourage all of our expecting mothers or current moms to head to our Facebook page today and connect with each other.