By Apollo 24/7, Published on - 14 April 2021
During pregnancy, women need to be careful about their diet, exercise, and overall health as the foetus derives nourishment from the mother. At this time of the pandemic, pregnant women need to be extra cautious of their health as COVID-19 can not only harm the mother but the child as well. While research is still ongoing, various studies have indicated the transfer of COVID-19 infection from an infected mother to their child.
Studies done by many health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), have established that several changes occur in the bodies and immune system of women during pregnancy, making them immunocompromised. This increases their risk of developing severe COVID-19 illness. Studies that indicate the risk for COVID-19 in pregnant women include:
The exact impact of the COVID-19 virus on pregnant women and their babies is still not known. However, scientists believe that the spike protein of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, does not bind to ACE2 receptors to enter the womb. It infects the baby by binding to CD147 receptors, which are widely present in the uterus, ovaries and placenta.
Another theory states that when the placenta gets damaged due to blood clots in pregnant women with COVID-19, the vertical transmission of the virus occurs from the mother to the baby. Studies that have found the transfer of COVID-19 from the mother to the child include:
Various studies have indicated that the transmission of the COVID-19 virus from the mother to the unborn baby can be life-threatening for the baby as their immune system is not mature enough to fight the virus.
As per the WHO, since pregnant women have a high risk of developing severe COVID-19 infection, they must be vaccinated after consulting their doctor.
A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology on 25th March 2021, included a total of 131 women - 84 pregnant, 31 lactating and 16 non-pregnant women. All these women were given two doses of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna mRNA vaccine. The scientists collected the blood and breast milk sample of these women 2 to 6 weeks after taking the vaccine. Scientists also collected blood samples from the umbilical cord of 13 women who delivered a baby after getting the vaccine.
The result of the study showed that:
Similarly, several other smaller studies have shown positive effects of different COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women. However, scientists believe more research is needed to determine the true impact of these vaccines on pregnant women. Pregnant women in countries like the US and UK are being administered the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-Astra-Zeneca or Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccines as they have been considered safe during pregnancy.
However, it is important to note that the Health Ministry of India has stated that pregnant (both confirmed and uncertain) and lactating women will not be given Covishield or Covaxin (the two COVID-19 vaccines being administered in India) until further research is conducted. The Government is expected to announce further guidelines and updates with regards to vaccinations for pregnant women.
As per the WHO, pregnant women should take precautionary measures against COVID-19, which include:
There have been numerous concerns about mother to child transmission of COVID-19 via the placenta, mother’s body fluids, during delivery, and while breastfeeding. However, more research is required to determine the effects actual impact of COVID-19 on pregnant women and their babies. In the meantime, pregnant women should minimise their risk of infection by wearing masks, distancing physically, and strictly following other COVID-appropriate behaviour. They must consult their doctors if they experience abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding or severe headache. And most of all, they must find ways to put their minds at ease and enjoy a happy and healthy pregnancy.
If you have any questions on the Coronavirus, you can speak to our experts through an online doctor consultation.
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