COVID-19 and Pregnancy: What are the Risks?

Pregnant women and COVID-19

If you are pregnant or you recently delivered a baby, or you are breastfeeding, you’re concerned about the impact of the wave of COVID-19 on you and your baby. 

COVID-19 pandemic has predominantly affected the respiratory system. If you leave aside the cases with comorbidities, most of the cases are mild or moderate in severity. 

Pregnancy checkup

Pregnant women who get infected with coronavirus COVID-19 are normally at no further increased risk compared to non-pregnant women. 

Having said that, there are certain factors, which increases the risk of hospital admission. So far, there is no evidence of any danger to the fetes, although the chances of preterm birth are higher.

There were many pregnant women who were reports of COVID-19 when the pandemic began to emerge in the United States in February 2020. As per the latest news, doctors worked with colleagues from across the country to treat such patients as it was a new scenario. They knew that this respiratory viruses was especially dangerous to pregnant women. Hence it was an inspiration to work harder and try to get answers faster.

Risks During Pregnancy

The overall risk of COVID-19 to pregnant women is low. If you are pregnant and have COVID-19, then you are more likely to develop respiratory complications that may require intensive care. Under such conditions,  you are most likely to be placed on a ventilator. 

If you are pregnant and have diabetes, then you are at an even higher risk of severe illness due to COVID-19.  Though the death reported under such conditions have been less, according to government data. 

If you have recovered from COVID-19 , then the chances are that you have passed on coronavirus to your unborn baby. In such a scenario, the babies are born with COVID-19 immunity. 

Pregnant woman and Covid-19

So far, there is no evidence that COVID-19 causes miscarriages in pregnancy. Neither COVID-19 affects the growth and development of your baby during pregnancy.

Studies have shown that pregnant women with COVID-19 are more likely to have a premature birth and cesarean delivery. Additionally, the chances of their babies being admitted to a neonatal unit is very high.

Does Pregnancy Lead to More Severe COVID-19?

Research studies so far have not shown any significantly increased risk of developing the more severe disease if pregnant. However, by default, pregnant women are always considered to be at moderate risk. 

Most pregnant women who get infected with COVID-19 tend to have mild or moderate symptoms, although there are always exceptions.  Whatever issues that have been discovered so far, they have been largely in the third trimester of pregnancy.

You must follow the guidelines judiciously on social distancing, wearing facial masks and frequent washing of hands. It is advised that you remain more vigilant, if you are in your third trimester of your pregnancy. 

Pregnant woman

You must avoid social contact with people who are not in their household or bubble. 

You have to prioritize your focus on achieving a safe and healthy pregnancy, including supplementation of folic acid and Vitamin D and doing regular exercise.

Increased Risk of Severe Diseases in Pregnant Women

So far, most COVID-19 cases in pregnant women have been mild or moderate. However, there have been some cases that required ICU admission in the hospital. 

Most of the health departments in respective countries have recognized pregnancy as a risk factor for severe COVID-19.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms or you have come in contact with a Coronavirus patient, then you must get yourself tested for COVID-19 as the earliest.

COVID-19 and It’s Impact on Prenatal Care

In order to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19, various measures have been taken in the past few years. Due to this, your access to routine prenatal care will be restricted.

Discuss with your health care provider about the precautions taken by them during these COIVD-19 times. Check whether virtual prenatal care will be of any help to you. 

COVID-19 and Pregnancy

Make queries about keeping any instrument like a blood pressure monitor at your home at your disposal. 

You can also enroll on online childbirth classes. If you fall in the high-risk category during pregnancy, consult your healthcare provider to check on how your care will be impacted.

COVID-19 and Recommendations for Delivery

As you approach towards the end of your pregnancy and you are healthy, some of the labor and delivery recommendations will be unchanged. You should stay flexible in your approach.

48 hours prior to your scheduled hospital admission for labor induction or a C-section, you will have to undergo screening for Coronavirus. Before you enter the labor and delivery unit, you will be screened again.  In case, you are diagnosed with Coronavirus, the healthcare provider will reschedule your induction for labor or C-section.

Some facilities will limit the number of people you can have in the room during labor and delivery to minimize the risk of any infection. The number of your visitors, visiting you post delivery will also be curtailed. 

During the hospitalization period, there will be daily screening for Coronavirus for yourself as well as your support person. In case you are infected, your hospital stay will be cut short.

In case, you have already tested positive or waiting for Coronavirus test results, it is imperative to follow the steps. During hospitalization post-childbirth, you must wear a cloth face mask and have clean hands when caring for your newborn.

Although it is difficult practically, you must maintain a reasonable distance from your baby when possible. If you follow these measures, the risk of the newborn becoming infected with the Coronavirus is low. 

You will find these steps, no doubt, difficult and even impractical, but these are only good for you and your newborn. After all, these are not the best of times, and drastic situations require drastic measures. 

Additionally, in the worst case scenario, if you are severely ill, you will be temporarily separated from your newborn.

COVID-19 and Newborn Babies

There is no substantial evidence to suggest that newborn babies have increased risk due to coronavirus. Recent studies have confirmed that there were almost no cases of stillbirth or neonatal death in pregnancy with Coronavirus.

Last year’s statistics have shown that expectant mothers admitted to ICU had a higher incidence of preterm births. This was in comparison with mothers with milder Coronavirus or without. 

The vertical transmission of Coronavirus from mother to baby during the pandemic had minimal evidence. The instances of Coronavirus in newborns are rare, however there are some cases of newborns testing positive for coronavirus within 24 hours of birth. 

Fetus and COVID-19

In such scenarios, doctors are not sure whether the baby got the virus before the birth, during or post-birth. The newborns found positive for Coronavirus had mild or no symptoms. There were only very few newborns who were suffering from severe illnesses.

The scientific brief on vertical mother-to-child Coronavirus transmission and its timing was recently published by WHO (World Health Organization) after reviewing current evidence worldwide.

The good news is that – respiratory viruses are not easily transmitted into your uterus. And till date, there have been no reports of the respiratory coronaviruses MERS-CoV or SARS-CoV being transmitted in uterus. 

The WHO has stated that evidence of SARS-Cov-2 vertical transmission is incomplete. This is because  limited data on the subject is available due to factors like a lack of standardized definitions.

Vaccines, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

There is still very little data available on the effect of Coronavirus vaccinations during pregnancy. Till today there is no concrete evidence to prove that Coronavirus has ill-effects on both the mother and child. 

Health authorities across the globe have not reported any specific concerns regarding Coronavirus vaccinations during pregnancy. Pregnant women should take the COVID-19 vaccine only if they have an increased risk of severe Coronavirus.

As per the guidelines issued by health authorities worldwide, mothers can receive vaccines whilst breastfeeding. The vaccine poses no risk to the baby. Currently, the WHO has recommended that women with Coronavirus can continue breastfeeding their newborn babies.

pregnancy and COVID-19 vaccine

Post childbirth, if your COVID-19 test results are positive, it is imperative to employ preventative methods. These methods are wearing a mask, keeping a distance, and washing items frequently used by your baby. 

In new born babies the risk of having severe Coronavirus is very low. Most babies will only have mild or no symptoms upon contracting it.

Precautions Taken by Pregnant Women During COVID-19

To reduce your risk of infection during pregnancy, avoid close contact with anyone who has symptoms and is sick or unwell. Keep about six feet of distance between yourself and other members at home and while you are out. Make it a practice to wear a cloth face mask in public and at work. Also, limit contact with others as much as possible. Instead, community with your friends and family via videos, photos, or video conferencing. Wash your hands often with soap and water for not less than 20 seconds. Your alcohol-based hand sanitizer should contain 60% alcohol.

Above all, focus on taking care of yourself as well as your baby. If you have trouble managing stress or anxiety, talk to your doctor or a mental health counsellor about coping strategies. Contact your doctor to discuss any concerns you might have.

If you found this blog post useful, don’t forget to check our other blogs covering what to avoid during pregnancy, pelvic pain during pregnancy, c-section (cesarean section) as well as obstetrics.

Bottomline

Summarizing, if you are pregnant and get Coronavirus at the same time, you are typically not at the risk of getting a more severe disease. Furthermore, the risk is minimal for both the mother and the developing child in most cases.

However, if you have pre-existing complications, you have an increased risk of hospitalization. Additionally, the likelihood for preterm birth is higher. You need to take note that a safe pregnancy is crucial, especially in the 3rd trimester. During this period, you should stay more vigilant and should take measures to minimize your risks of getting COVID-19.

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