Just like any other day Mrs X is visiting the obstetrician for her Antenatal care she’s got concerns about COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel corona virus, how the infection affects pregnant women and their unborn children.
We will take a look at what we do know and address some of the biggest questions people have about COVID-19 and pregnancy.
Can it be passed to my fetus in the womb?
One of the biggest findings in preliminary research is that the virus doesn’t appear to pass from mother to fetus in the womb. However, after reports circulated last week that a newborn baby in Britain tested positive for COVID-19 moments after being born, it’s clear we need more data about the disease before any conclusions can be made. Though the virus doesn’t seem to be vertically transmitted, a recent study conducted to review 10 newborn babies from mothers with COVID-19 found that the infection does seem to have an adverse effect on newborns — including respiratory distress, low blood platelet count and abnormal liver function. As a result of the aforementioned, health experts agree we need more data to fully assess newborns’ risk of contracting the virus.
Which delivery method is safer: C-section or vaginal birth?
It’s too early to say as there’s no study available to evaluate which birth method is safe and the risk linked to both C-section and Vaginal births. Certain viral infections can be passed from mom to baby during delivery. The flu virus, however, doesn’t pass to babies during vaginal delivery. Other viruses such as, HIV and herpes, can spread through blood and bodily fluids, which makes C-sections a safer choice.
“Currently, there is no recommended delivery method” it’s the decision of the OB-GYN and it’s going to be case by case.”
Does COVID-19 up my risk of complications?
In a recent webinar geared toward health professionals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shared their findings from evaluating the health data of 34 women from China diagnosed with COVID-19 in the third trimester.
They reported that pregnant women with COVID-19 have a greater risk of delivering prematurely, and on average, give birth around 36 weeks. In more severe cases, COVID-19 may cause pneumonia, which is a concern for pregnant women because already “their lung capacity is already slightly diminished.” This is because, If a pregnant woman experiences severely poor oxygenation, the child will be oxygen staved and this can put them at a higher risk for lasting developmental issues.
Another concern is that COVID-19 often causes a fever. In the first trimester, elevated body temperature is associated with the fetal developmental anomaly.
In the third trimester, high body temperature can lead to dehydration which can trigger premature delivery.
What effects does the virus have on the immune system?
There’s presently no report that suggests that pregnant women are appearing to become any sicker from COVID-19 than non-pregnant women of the same age.
Although it is an established fact that The flu and other respiratory infections are known to cause more severe illnesses in pregnant women, so the novel coronavirus may do the same — but again, there are no data to evaluate the effect.
After delivery what next?
Anyone diagnosed with COVID-19, including the mother, will need to be isolated from the newborn until they recover in order to avoid transmitting the virus to the baby. “Since direct contact is a confirmed route of transmission, some care needs to be taken to limit the chance of infecting a newborn if they do breastfeed.”
Although breast milk doesn’t seem to carry the virus, close contact should be avoided. New mothers may need to consider using protective equipment — like masks or gloves when expressing breast milk and feeding should be done by the healthcare professional.
WHAT STEPS SHOULD BE TAKEN?
TO GENERAL PUBLIC:
Hand washing, social distancing, and steering clear of anyone who’s sick can lower the risk of being exposed to the virus.
If a pregnant woman has a known exposure to someone who’s sick or is experiencing any symptoms, it’s crucial to call their OB-GYN as soon as possible.
TO THE HEALTHCARE PROVIDER:
Ensure that both the mother and the baby are monitored to ensure the baby isn’t developing symptoms or getting sick.
All deliveries should be done at the hospital and managed by a qualified obstetrician and midwife.
And though pregnant women are considered an "at-risk group", at this point it doesn’t look like they have an increased risk of complications if they develop COVID-19.