Many expecting mothers and their partners are wondering how COVID-19 will impact their pregnancy and birth. We know this time can be stressful and your ideal birthing experience might no longer be an option. Making sure you are aware of the risks, knowing how to protect yourself and your baby, and understanding current recommendations are all important when you are creating your birth plan and deciding whether or not to get pregnant.
How does COVID-19 affect pregnant women?
Based on current information, the CDC confirms that pregnant women are at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared to those who are not pregnant.
A study done by the CDC suggests that among women of reproductive age with COVID-19, pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized and have an increased risk for ICU admission. They are more likely to need a ventilator compared with nonpregnant women, but they are not any more likely to die from COVID-19.
Based on a study done in Spain by the Obstetric Emergency Group, pregnant women who contract COVID-19 have increased odds of preterm birth. No maternal deaths were recorded during this study, but there were several stillbirths with the proportion being considerably higher in patients with COVID-19 than those who were not infected.
The study found that after birth, babies from COVID-19 positive mothers had higher rates of neonatal intensive care admission. Prematurity and respiratory distress were the main causes of NICU admission while none of these admissions were due to COVID-19 in newborns.
Additionally, the study found that the premature rupture of membranes (PROM) at term and preterm are more frequent in patients with COVID-19. PROM may result in certain risks and problems including maternal or neonatal infection.
How can I protect myself from COVID-19?
The bottom line is that you must strictly follow COVID-19 guidelines. According to Dr. Kimberly Heller, OB/GYN and Maternal Fetal Medicine Director at Nuvance Health, since COVID-19 is primarily spread from an infected person’s cough or sneeze, it’s important to practice proper hygiene. Washing your hands, using alcohol–based sanitizers, avoiding touching your face, and limiting contact with others are some of the key ways to prevent infection.
It’s important to follow government orders and public health guidelines for social distancing. Avoid being in large groups of people, and postpone nonessential appointments, errands, and travel.
The CDC states that pregnant women should not skip their healthcare appointments during and after pregnancy. If you’re concerned about going to your appointments, make sure to contact your healthcare provider to see what steps they are taking to protect healthy patients from those who may be sick.
What if I develop symptoms during pregnancy?
According to Kids Health from Nemours, the symptoms of COVID-19 can be like those of other viruses, such as colds and the flu. So chances are, unless you get tested, you won’t know if you have COVID-19. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any symptoms, such as a cough, fever, or trouble breathing.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) notes that if you go to the hospital, try to call ahead to let them know you are coming so they can prepare. If you have other symptoms that worry you, call your ob-gyn or 911.
Is it safe to deliver my baby in a hospital?
Yes, hospitals are a safe place to deliver your baby. Hospitals and birth centers are taking precautions to ensure mothers and babies are safe. Most health care facilities keep those with COVID-19 or symptoms of the virus away from others and in isolation.
According to the ACOG, the safest place for you to give birth is still at a hospital, hospital-based birth center, or accredited freestanding birth center. They caution that even with the healthiest pregnancies, problems can arise with no warning during labor and delivery. If something happens, a hospital can give you and your baby the best care in a hurry.
How can I protect my baby from getting COVID-19?
Limiting exposure is crucial to protect your baby from COVID-19. This includes while you are in the hospital and after you have returned home. Create a plan with your partner outlining the safety guidelines that you feel comfortable with and then communicate it to your extended family.
“Although your friends and family will be anxious to meet your new baby, you should limit the baby’s exposure to as few people as possible for the next few weeks, or as long as there are federal and state guidelines in place for social distancing. Discourage family and friends from traveling until it is deemed safe,” says Dr. Heller.
According to the CDC, do not put a face shield or mask on your baby. A face shield could increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or accidental suffocation and strangulation. Their movement may cause the plastic face shield to block their nose and mouth, or cause the strap to strangle them.
Make sure to stay in close contact with your ob-gyn throughout your pregnancy and after birth. Your healthcare provider should continue to be your main source of information and resource for all questions about your pregnancy.