The top 7 things to know in times of COVID-19 for pregnant women.
Pregnancy can be a particularly special moment in women’s lives both psychologically and physiologically. A global pandemic like respiratory disease COVID-19 unfolding just as you might be going through your pregnancy would only add to the never-ending list of questions you might have. Before you start panicking, here are some points that will help you put things in perspective. Just a hint: it’s not all bad news.
Limited Information Available (So Far)
There is currently a very limited number of studies regarding how COVID-19 impacts pregnant women and their babies. The 2 studies (1) (2) currently available date from February 2020 and cover a total of 18 pregnant women only.
Additionally, there has been none to limited anecdotal accounts regarding the effects of COVID-19 on pregnant women and pregnancies. As such, whilst there have not been any alarming signs so far regarding the impact of COVID-19 on pregnant women, pregnancies or babies, it is appropriate to err on the side of caution.
Pregnant Women are Generally Considered “At Risk”
Due to numerous changes in bodily functions during pregnancy, pregnant women can momentarily see their immunity levels decrease as well as their lung function reduce.
As such, pregnant women should make sure to apply the utmost precaution around their hygiene and social distancing as they are potentially at increased risk of complications from respiratory diseases.
Should you have any non-urgent medical or psychological questions, avoid going to the doctor and risk getting infected. Think about switching to telehealth consults instead and talk with one of our Australian doctors and psychologists.
Pregnant Women currently not Worse Impacted
Based on the limited information available, COVID-19 did not seem to be more severe for pregnant women, as opposed to influenza, other respiratory illnesses or the varicella, which can cause serious complications especially as the pregnancy progresses.
According to a report by the World Health Organisation, in an investigation of 147 pregnant women (64 confirmed, 82 suspected and 1 asymptomatic), 8% had severe disease and 1% were critical, which is in line or below what is expected of the general population. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists expects the large majority of pregnant women to experience mild to moderate symptoms.
Unknown Risk of Preterm Birth (so Far)
Due to the limited number of pregnant women close to term getting COVID-19, it is too early to tell if you are at a greater risk of miscarriage or pregnancy complications. Whilst there were no miscarriages among the 18 cases studied, 4 of the 12 pregnancies resulted in preterm pregnancies. It is however, unclear whether they were caused by COVID-19 or whether the doctors decided in favour of preterm births in light of a COVID-19 infection.
Does COVID-19 Pass from Mother to Baby Before Birth?
The information currently available is conflicting, with early studies pointing to no transmission, and more recent information pointing to the existence of coronavirus-related antibodies in three newborns with COVID-19 infected mums. The data from these studies has however been questioned, with the possibility of the babies tested for coronavirus antibodies having been infected post-birth. Other common respiratory viral illnesses such as influenza lack a vertical transmission from the mother to child in utero.
Is COVID-19 passed through breastfeeding?
At this stage very little is known about transmission via breastfeeding. Influenza is not passed through breastfeeding. Similarly, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention does not have any specific breastfeeding advice for similar viruses as SARS-CoV or MERS-CoV.
Get the Flu shot!
Given the uncertainty around premature births, it is important for pregnant women to be fully prepared in the eventuality of a premature birth. Getting the flu shot will not only help limit your chances of getting possibly-dangerous influenza, but also make sure your little one is born with some precious antibodies. The Department of Health extends free influenza vaccines to pregnant women.