By Apollo 24/7, Published on - 16 June 2020
Pregnancy is a special time full of cheerful optimism, anticipation, and joy. It is natural though, that some pregnant women may be concerned about the novel Coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes. Given that this is a novel virus, not much is known about its impact on pregnant women. Early data regarding pregnancy outcomes in COVID-19 is reassuring, showing that there is no evidence of a higher risk for severe illness. Consequently, pregnant women should continue to stay positive, while taking the necessary precautions.
Equally, pregnant women are vulnerable to respiratory infections owing to the change in their immune, respiratory, and cardiovascular physiology that occurs during pregnancy. Hence, they need to take the right steps for protection against COVID-19.
Researchers are still trying to learn more about how Coronavirus impacts pregnant women. Here’s what most studies say at the moment:
Although the studies were small, the above data shows that COVID-19 risk among pregnant women is similar to any other person in the community, and chances of severe illness are also low. Another important finding from the studies is that most pregnant women infected with Coronavirus are asymptomatic. Hence, researchers are further studying the benefit of universal testing approach.
This is a new virus and more is being learned about it every day. Emerging evidence from various studies published in the Lancet journal suggests that vertical transmission of Coronavirus is not possible. Vertical transmission is the spread of the virus from mother to baby during pregnancy or birth. Although few studies showed indirect proof for vertical transmission by testing the presence of antibodies in neonates, we need further studies with large data to conclude. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), there was no active virus found in samples of amniotic fluid or breast milk.
Newborns may get infected with Coronavirus after being in close contact with an infected person. Few babies were tested positive immediately after birth but it is unknown if these babies got the virus before, during, or after birth. Most newborns who got infected had mild or no symptoms. Few case reports of preterm birth are seen among babies of COVID-19 positive mothers but it is unclear if it is because of Coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed a few precautions to be taken by pregnant women to lower their risk of contracting the virus. They are as follows:
Mothers who do not have COVID-19 are also advised to follow a few precautions for general safety after delivery to lessen the risk of any infections.
Based on the current data, temporary separation of the newborn from the mother may be considered to reduce the risk of spreading Coronavirus to the newborn. The risk and benefits of temporary separation are generally discussed with the mother by the doctor.
If a mother chooses temporary separation:
If a mother rejects temporary separation and chooses to breastfeed, she should:
The CDC also suggests that newborns and infants should not use plastic face shields or face covering cloth masks due to the risk of suffocation.
The COVID-19 risk among pregnant women is similar to that of any other person in the community. Moreover, most infected women had mild disease or no symptoms. However, in general, pregnant women are vulnerable to all respiratory infections. Hence, it is advisable to follow the necessary social distancing and other precautions.
The likelihood of an infected mother transmitting the virus to the child during pregnancy is low but it might happen after the delivery due to close contact. However, considering the advantages of breast milk and no evidence of Coronavirus in breast milk in studies, a mother can continue feeding her baby, with precautions.
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Current data suggests that people with pre-existing respiratory illnesses may have severe complications if they get infected with Coronavirus. Hence, one should follow hygiene precautions to reduce the risk of exposure.
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