It’s therefore completely understandable that the COVID-19 pandemic might be causing our pregnant members stress and uncertainty. Here we address some of the biggest concerns pregnant women have expressed with regards to COVID-19:
Am I at greater risk to get COVID-19 if I’m pregnant?
Based on what we know about COVID-19, we believe pregnant women appear to have the same risk of COVID-19 as adults who are not pregnant.
However, much remains unknown. We do know that pregnant women have had a higher risk of severe illness when infected with viruses that are similar to COVID-19, as well as other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza.
We also know that pregnant women experience changes in their bodies that may increase their risk of some infections. Therefore, if you are pregnant, it’s always important for you to try to protect yourself from illnesses whenever possible. Continue with standard precautionary measures such as avoiding crowded places, limiting the use of public transport where possible, washing your hands regularly with soap and water, and avoiding touching your face.
Risks to the pregnancy and the baby
Much is still unknown about the risks of COVID-19 to the pregnancy and the baby.
• Mother-to-child transmission of COVID-19 during pregnancy is unlikely. However, after birth, a newborn can be infected after being in close contact with an infected person, including the baby’s mother or other caregivers.
• A small number of babies have tested positive for the virus shortly after birth, according to limited published reports. However, it is unknown whether these babies got the virus before, during, or after birth.
• A small number of other problems, such as preterm birth, have been reported in babies born to mothers who tested positive for COVID-19 late in their pregnancy. However, we do not know if these problems were related to the virus.
Prenatal and postpartum care during the COVID-19 pandemic
It is important to take care of yourself and your baby during pregnancy and after delivery. Do not skip your prenatal care appointments or postpartum appointments. If you are concerned about attending your appointment due to COVID-19, talk to your healthcare provider. When attending health facilities, moms should ensure they continue to take all the standard precautions such as hand washing or hand sanitising before and after entering the health facility, avoiding touching their face, and coughing or sneezing into a tissue.
Can COVID-19 be transmitted through breast milk?
There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through breast milk. The benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the risks and new mothers are encouraged to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of their child’s life and as long as they are able thereafter.
I’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, but do not have symptoms, can I continue to breastfeed?
Yes, if you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 you can continue to breastfeed, but must take the standard precautions such as washing your hands with soap and water before and after holding your baby, covering your mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and regularly cleaning and disinfecting surfaces with which the baby is in contact.
I am pregnant and have been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. I have no symptoms, but I am worried something might happen to my baby. What should I do?
There’s no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 increases this risk of miscarriage or preterm birth; however, to keep yourself healthy, continue to practice the standard precautions such as washing your hands frequently with soap and water, avoiding touching your face, limiting the use of public transport, and avoiding public gatherings. If you do develop symptoms, contact your healthcare practitioner or call the 24-hour COVID-19 Helpline on 0800 029 999.
I have tested positive for COVID-19 and am pregnant. Is my baby at risk too?
Because this virus was only recently discovered, we are still learning about the potential impact on the unborn child. In China, pregnant women who were in their second and third trimesters saw no increased risk of birth defects, stillbirth or miscarriage. Additional data are being collected, but for now, no data suggest that COVID-19 can be spread from the mother to the baby when pregnant. New data are available weekly so please discuss with your healthcare provider if you have concerns.
Remember to look out for the normal danger signs in pregnancy such as bleeding, waters breaking before getting contractions, no movements from baby for four hours or more, severe lower abdominal pains, fits and fast or difficulty in breathing. If you experience any of these, consult with your healthcare provider immediately.
Like to find out more? Visit these sites for reliable information:
• WHO Clinical management of severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) when COVID-19 disease is suspected-Interim guidance 13 March 2020
• Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists- Corona Virus (COVID-19) infection in pregnancy v. 18 March 2020