Pregnant or trying to get pregnant? Here’s what you need to know about your pregnancy and COVID-19.
Being pregnant can be scary at the best of times. While we nurture our growing baby bumps and become increasingly excited as the big day draws near, we also worry about all the things that can go wrong.
COVID-19 has taken all those worries and quadrupled them, especially for expectant moms. So, how does a new virus and a global pandemic impact your pregnancy and the birth of your baby?
How much information is available for pregnant moms-to-be during COVID-19?
Unfortunately, new viruses come with a lot of unknowns. Recommendations and guidelines will continue to change as medical professionals and scientists around the world learn more about this illness. It’s therefore important to stay up to date with the latest COVID-19 advice and to check-in regularly with your obstetrician and GP.
Is there anything I can do to limit my chances of getting COVID-19?
A good vitamin D supplement is recommended to all women during pregnancy, but there is some evidence that it’s a good supplement to take during the pandemic as well. According to the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom, some reports suggest that people with low levels of vitamin D are at an increased risk of serious respiratory complications if they develop COVID-19. There is no evidence that taking vitamin D can prevent COVID-19 infections, but it might help against developing a more severe case.
It is also highly recommended that pregnant women, particularly those in their third trimester, follow social distancing guidelines, wear a mask when in public, stay away from public places and avoid anyone who has possible COVID-19 symptoms.
What is my risk of becoming very ill if I do have COVID-19?
Scientists are still trying to learn a lot more about how this virus impacts pregnancy, but there have been a number of studies conducted around the world. Currently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is recommending that pregnant women follow certain precautions, such as social distancing and good hand hygiene, to avoid contact with the virus.
The good news is that there is no evidence to suggest that being pregnant increases a woman’s risk for getting COVID-19. However, pregnant women are immune-compromised and could therefore be more susceptible to complications if they contract a respiratory infection like COVID-19.
An analysis published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in June 2020 found that moms-to-be with COVID-19 are more likely to be hospitalised in an intensive care unit and put on a ventilator, suggesting pregnant women are more likely to have severe COVID-19 complications.
Does contracting COVID-19 increase the risk of miscarriage or other complications?
No, according to Harvard Health Publishing, there is no current evidence that pregnant women who are infected with COVID-19 are more at risk for miscarriage or foetal malformations. There is some evidence that COVID-19 might result in preterm births, however. In a recent report tracking nearly 600 hospitalised pregnant women with COVID-19 in the US, 12.6% of births were preterm, which is higher than expected among pregnant women in the general population. However, the rate of miscarriage was very low (2% compared to 10% in the general population).
If I contract COVID-19 while I’m pregnant, can I pass it on to my new-born?
According to the CDC, there have been a number of tests across the United States tracking new-borns whose mothers have tested positive for COVID-19, and unfortunately this is still unclear. Some babies have tested positive, while others have not. In those that did test positive, it is also not clear if the babies were born with COVID-19 or came into contact with it in the hospital.
Reassuringly however, the rate of COVID-19 in new-borns is very low, which suggests that although it is possible to pass COVID-19 on to a foetus, the risk is low.
The UK’s NHS also reports that in all reported cases of new-born babies developing COVID-19 very soon after birth, the babies were well. There is also no current evidence that the virus causes problems in a baby’s development.
If I contract COVID-19 while I’m pregnant, can I still breastfeed my baby?
Currently, there is extremely limited evidence that the virus may be present in breast milk, and no evidence that it is transmitted through breastmilk. Given how the virus spreads, mothers with COVID-19 can breastfeed their babies safely, although it is recommended that new mothers who test positive should practice careful hand hygiene and wear a face mask while breastfeeding to help minimize an infant’s exposure to the virus.
Could spending time in the hospital post-delivery increase my risk of exposure to COVID-19?
The number of people able to come into hospitals and visit patients has been minimised during the pandemic. This is particularly true of maternity wards. All medical staff are working hard to ensure any exposure to COVID-19 in maternity wards is extremely low. Both you and your partner may be required to take a COVID-19 test before your delivery date as well. Your chosen delivery hospital will be able to share their COVID-19 guidelines. Do not be afraid to ask them any questions and share the concerns you have with them.
Should I re-schedule my baby shower because of COVID-19?
Baby showers are beautiful occasions where friends and family are able to celebrate the coming arrival of your bundle of joy with you. The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that many baby showers have been cancelled and families have not been able to meet the newest additions to their lives. With lockdown restrictions easing, you can celebrate with your loved ones if you choose to do so, however, it is recommended that you host any events outdoors, have only a few select guests and practice social distancing. It is also important to follow all hygiene guidelines. You can always throw a large first birthday party to make up for any events that are missed during the pandemic.
Should family be visiting our new-born during COVID-19?
Welcoming your new baby into the world during a global pandemic is scary and can feel lonely. Right now, your top priority should be to keep baby safe and healthy (and the same is true for your baby’s parents). Limit interaction as much as possible during this time. If close family members do visit, practice social distancing, wear masks and ensure everyone washes their hands for at least 20 seconds before entering your home. This is a difficult time, but it will pass.