Pregnancy can be a very exciting time in a woman’s life. Her hopes and dreams grow with the baby growing inside of her. Right now, it may also be a very scary time. With COVID-19 in our community, there are a lot of questions about what precautions a pregnant woman should take. The following is a summary of recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the American College of OB-GYN (ACOG).
Unfortunately, there is not a lot of information about the COVID-19 virus and pregnancy outcomes. We don’t know if pregnant women are at an increased risk of infection because they are pregnant. If we look at other viral infections like the influenza virus, pregnant women are at an increased risk of complications like severe respiratory illness, leading to miscarriage and preterm labor. Therefore, we are treating pregnant women as if they are a high-risk group.
How can I keep myself from getting the virus?
- Handwashing is key. The virus has been shown to survive on surfaces for hours to days. It is important to avoid touching your face and mouth and make you are regularly washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. If you do have to cough or sneeze, please use your elbow instead of your hands.
- Social distancing is also very important. We know there are asymptomatic carriers in the community, meaning people who have the virus but don’t show any signs. By keeping your distance, you can keep yourself and your family and friends safe.
- Stay physically and mentally healthy. Make sure you are getting exercise; yoga and cardio are great exercises in pregnancy and can be done easily at home or outside. If you have any complications with your pregnancy, discuss with your doctor what types of physical activity are suitable for you. Meditation, music, reading, learning new hobbies and catching up with friends and family over the phone are also great ways to keep a positive attitude.
Can my baby get the infection while I am pregnant?
This is also an area that is still being studied. From the limited number of patients that were looked at, there is no risk of passing the infection from mother to baby while you are pregnant. You do need to remember to use the same strict precautions to prevent transmission to your baby after they are born. This also means restricting visitors to whomever is absolutely necessary.
Will I be able to breastfeed my baby?
In the limited research that has been done, the virus has not been found in breastmilk. However, if a mother is suspected to have the virus or is positive for the virus, it is strongly recommended that she take all precautions to prevent spreading the virus to the baby. This includes hand washing, wearing a mask while breastfeeding if possible and thorough cleaning of bottles and breast pumps. You may want to consider pumping breastmilk and having someone else feed the baby if you are not feeling well.
What if I get sick?
If you are feeling flu-like symptoms, a cough, fever or shortness of breath, please call your doctor. Do notgo to the office. Your doctor will give you further instructions regarding what to monitor. Stay away from others and have someone bring you cold medications that are safe in pregnancy. If your symptoms worsen (i.e. severe shortness of breath, severe chest pain), call your doctor and they will notify the ER to prepare for your arrival.
What should I ask my doctor?
You should ask your doctor to provide a list of medications that are safe to take in pregnancy for cold symptoms. These can differ based on any underlying medical conditions you may have. If you are having an uncomplicated pregnancy, you may be able to stretch out your visits so that you are in the office less or can have tele-visits. You can discuss this with your doctor. Make sure you know how to get ahold of your doctor on evenings and weekends for any questions/concerns.
What should I know about going to the hospital?
Many hospitals have updated visitor policies to restrict the number of people in the hospital. This may include the Labor and Delivery unit as well. It is important to ask your doctor if there have been any changes to the policy at your hospital. The reason for these policies is to limit exposure of patients, staff members and the community to the virus, especially since we know that people may be carrying the virus without any symptoms.
If your hospital does have a no visitor policy for L&D, know that this was not an easy decision for the hospital to make, but it was done for your safety and the safety of your newborn and your healthcare team. Know that your healthcare team understands how much more difficult and stressful this will be for you and will be there for you every step of the way. You can make a plan to use phone calls and video chatting to keep in touch with your loved ones during your labor. You and your family can also come up with a playlist of songs that can make you feel like you are more connected with your loved ones. There are also many meditation and hypnobirthing tools that you can use to stay focused during your labor.
These are very nervous and uncertain times for all us. Remember that your healthcare providers are working tirelessly to get this outbreak under control and to keep you and your family safe. If you have questions, please make sure to ask your doctor. Thank you for doing your part and staying home when you can.