While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say they’re still unsure whether or not pregnant women are at greater risk for becoming infected by the virus, Alexis Davis, MD, MS Epi, a NICU Director and Lansinoh Clinical Advisory Board member, answered a few of our biggest questions.
What are the biggest risks for pregnant women?
“From what we know so far, it does not appear that pregnant mothers are more susceptible to severe respiratory disease due to COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant patients. That being said, reports from the US are indicating that younger people (ages 20-64) can be severely affected, so the information is changing daily,” Davis said.
The CDC state that pregnant women experience “changes in their bodies that may increase their risk of some infections,” and that women generally have a higher risk of developing severe illnesses from viruses like influenza. Pregnant women should follow the same precautions as the general public to avoid infection: washing hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer, avoiding sick people, coughing into your elbow and, now, social distancing.
Can the new coronavirus be passed from mother to baby?
“So far there is no evidence of vertical transmission (from mother to baby in the womb), but we still don’t know the impact of early COVID-19 disease on the developing fetus if the mother has an infection early in pregnancy,” Davis said.
According to the CDC, no infants born to mothers with confirmed COVID-19 have tested positive for the virus. In each of these cases, the virus was not found in samples of amniotic fluid or breastmilk.
Are newborn babies at high risk of getting infected?
“Because we don’t think there is a high risk of vertical transmission, there is concern about horizontal transmission after birth. If you are sick and coughing, it’s important to take protective measures so that you or others don’t infect your baby,” Davis explained. “The data from China’s infections so far continue to provide some reassurance about children being less severely affected by COVID-19 infections. However, every individual circumstance is different, and different risk factors can place certain pediatric patients at higher risk.”
What should I do if I’m nursing and I think I have coronavirus?
“If you are concerned that you might have COVID-19, talk to your doctor about getting tested. If you have COVID-19, feeding a baby expressed breastmilk is believed to be the best way to balance the risks of horizontal transmission of disease while providing the protective benefits of breastmilk. If you must breastfeed your baby, it is recommended that you wear a mask to prevent inadvertent exposure from sneezing, coughing, etc. to your baby,” Davis said.
Does the coronavirus cause problems during pregnancy?
The CDC are currently unsure at this time if COVID-19 would cause problems during pregnancy or affect the health of the baby after birth.
Can I still give birth at a hospital during the pandemic?
Ultimately, yes. You won’t have to turn to a home birth for your baby, unless you want to. While about 10,000 babies are born in the US per day, many hospitals around the country are limiting the number of visitors per patient, including those in labor. Some hospitals, such as the George Washington University Hospital in Washington, DC, have placed a temporary restriction on all visitors aside from those visiting end-of-life patients, those who are parents of pediatric patients, and those there to support a patient in labor, with a limit of two total. Check with your local hospital to see if they’ve placed restrictions on visitors.
Take a deep breath. Wash your hands. Stay inside. Everything will be OK.