This spring, you could not turn on the TV or open a new app without hearing about COVID-19 (coronavirus). The question for expecting mamas is, “What does this mean for me and my pregnancy?” Here’s what you need to know.
First, a refresher on the basics. Coronavirus is spread from an infected person to others by respiratory droplets through coughing and sneezing. Close contact with an infected person like touching or shaking hands or touching a surface that has been contaminated with the virus, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before you wash your hands can also spread the virus. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath and can appear anywhere between 2-14 days after exposure. Illness ranges from mild to severe, and in the worst cases, death. Experts are constantly learning more about how the virus impacts people.
Now, for pregnant women, data suggests you have an altered immune system while carrying a baby. Technically, this can increase your risk of developing complications from respiratory viruses like the flu. However, this doesn’t mean you have an increased risk of developing COVID-19 symptoms. Studies looking at the virus in pregnant woman found no evidence of the virus in breast milk, cord blood, or amniotic fluid. Further studies need to be conducted to elicit further data.
Nevertheless, pregnant woman should still take precautions to minimize risk.
These precautions include avoiding sick contacts, practicing good hand hygiene, avoiding touching the face, avoiding shaking hands, avoiding crowded areas where air circulation is poor, and limiting time on public transportation. It’s not clear whether newborns have a greater risk of complications from COVID-19, but it does appear that children are lesser affected by the virus.
Breastfeeding is still encouraged, even in mothers affected by the virus. Breast milk has been known to protect babies against many illnesses. It’s important to wash hands before feeding or caring for your baby and wear a mask if you feel ill. Clean breast pumps properly each time you use them and if feeling ill. Consider allowing someone else who is healthy to bottle-feed your expressed breast milk to your baby.
In addition, you can prepare for time at home by stocking up on some essential items – such as diapers, wipes, water, medications, canned and frozen goods. You should, however, continue your routine prenatal care with your obstetrical provider and plan to deliver in a hospital or birthing center if that’s your birth plan.
As I write this, things are changing daily with coronavirus. It’s best to follow cdc.gov for the latest updates and recommendations through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Written by: Erica Stockwell, DO MBA FACOG