Coronavirus and pregnancy

During pregnancy, your body undergoes physiological and immunological changes so it is important to be wary of respiratory viruses.

Are pregnant women more susceptible?

While there are no definitive answers as to how the coronavirus affects the mother and child during pregnancy, pregnancy can be a time where individuals are more vulnerable and susceptible to viral respiratory infections as the body is naturally undergoing changes due to the pregnancy.

Do pregnant women experience a harsher course of illness?

It is possible that pregnant women are more at risk of severe illness, morbidity and mortality if COVID-19 is similar to the other two coronavirus infections that have made the jump from animals to humans, SARS and MERS, and other viral respiratory infections such as the flu. 

The CDC currently classifies the immediate risk to the public as low. However, it is important for pregnant women, like everyone else, to take simple preventative steps to stop the spread of the virus such as washing hands regularly and avoiding those who are ill. 

Will pregnancy women with COVID-19 have adverse outcomes?

At present, there is no information regarding adverse outcomes in pregnancy. However, pregnancy loss (miscarriages, stillbirths) in SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV infection have been observed. High fevers in the first trimester may be associated with fetal birth defects as this is the crucial time period for the development of most organs. 

What about risks to pregnant healthcare workers?
These individuals should follow risk assessment and infection control guidelines, it may be a good idea for facilities to avoid pregnant healthcare workers to carry out more high risk/ invasive procedures if this is feasible. 

Can COVID-19 pass to the fetus or newborn from the mother?

We do not know for certain whether vertical transmission - before during and after delivery is possible. A limited recent study has shown that no infants from infected mothers tested positive for the virus causing COVID-19. The virus was not detected in amniotic fluid and breast milk samples. Vertical transmission has not been reported for MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV either.

Do infants of mothers with COVID-19 suffer adverse outcomes?

There are some cases of preterm births for example in mothers who had COVID-19 but we do not know if these are specifically caused by the virus. However other respiratory infections such as influenza have been associated with low birth weight and preterm birth. A high fever in the first trimester can increase the risk of birth defects. Mothers with SARS and MERS have given birth to babies with a low birth weight and to premature infants. While we do not know the long-term effects on the infants from COVID-19, prematurity and low birth weight are associated with adverse health outcomes later in life such as pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. 


How do I protect myself and others? 

There are many things you can do to help to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. The two most important things you can do are to wash your hands regularly and to always cover your mouth when you sneeze. When washing your hands, you should use soap and water and wash them for at least 20 seconds. You can also use alcohol-based hand-sanitizer, but you should try to ensure that they are at least 60% alcohol. When you sneeze, sneeze into a tissue if possible. Then dispose of the tissue in a closed bin and wash your hands. If you don't have a tissue to hand, sneezing into the crook of your elbow is better than nothing. 

Other steps you can take that help you avoid contact with coronavirus are to regularly disinfect surfaces, to practice good food hygiene, to avoid touching your face and to avoid shaking hands, hugging and other forms of close physical contact. 

If you do experience any symptoms of coronavirus, you should phone up your doctor or local clinic and ask them for advice. To prevent the spread of coronavirus, many clinics and hospitals advise that you stay at home unless you become seriously unwell. It would also be appropriate to self-isolate if you have come into contact with anyone who has or may have coronavirus - including those who have recently visited areas affected by a coronavirus outbreak. It can take several days for symptoms to develop and it may be possible to transmit the virus even if you don't show any symptoms. Therefore, it is recommended that you self-isolate to reduce the chances of spreading the disease to others. 

If you are caring for someone who has coronavirus, you should wear an appropriate mask to help protect yourself. It is important that you use a mask that helps to protect you from viruses specifically. In addition, ensure that you always use and dispose of the mask appropriately. Always wash your hands before and after touching a mask and never reuse a disposable mask. 

The CDC and WHO will provide reliable and up to date information on Coronavirus. For more information, refer to their guidelines. 

Summary

Pregnant women and their babies may be at risk from coronavirus. Pregnant women should take care to pay attention to how they interact with their environment and keep clean e.g. by regularly washing hands. It is sensible to avoid those with the virus. If an infection is suspected they should seek appropriate medical help to protect themselves, their child and others. 

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4938684/

https://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(20)30197-6/fulltext

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18510050

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/pregnancy-faq.html

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019


 

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