Because coronavirus is new to the human race, there are still a lot of things that we haven’t explored about the disease. Some examples are the ways the virus spreads and the effect of different climates on the virus.
Coronavirus: The New Epidemic
Scientists are still researching the impact of coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, on pregnant women. New York University’s director of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Ashley Roman, says that there are more questions than answers about the disease. She adds that considering the novelty of the situation, medical professionals are bombarded with new information every day.
However, medical experts say they have some idea considering a few cases of pregnant women having been diagnosed with COVID-19 in China. There is also data about other viruses like Middle East respiratory syndrome and SARS that doctors can use. Here are some questions about the effects of COVID-19 on pregnant women.
Are Pregnant Women More Vulnerable to Coronavirus?
Pregnant women are more vulnerable to various infections, such as UTIs. This is because the immune system weakens to prevent the body from rejecting the fetus. Respiratory illnesses like MERS and SARS have affected pregnant women more severely than other people. A professor of microbiology and pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine, Sallie Permar, says that there are coronaviruses that cause the common cold but haven’t been seen to be severe in pregnant women.
Permar says that based on the limited information doctors have, COVID-19 does not pose a more significant threat to pregnant women in comparison to other people. The Lancet reported that the women who developed pneumonia had the same characteristics as non-pregnant adults diagnosed with the same.
Can Pregnant Women Pass the Virus to Their Child/Children?
So far, we all know that coronavirus spreads through droplets released in the air through sneezing and coughing. However, there are some viruses like the Zika virus that can be passed from mother to baby through breastmilk and the placenta or during birth.
In February this year, medical professionals became concerned that COVID-19 would spread in the same way. A woman diagnosed with coronavirus in Wuhan gave birth to a baby who tested positive for COVID-19 two days later. However, this contradicted a report on nine other women diagnosed with the virus. Doctors tested samples from the children’s throats, amniotic fluid, cord blood and breast milk. They all tested negative. Medical experts wrote in The Lancet that there is currently no evidence that suggests a mother can pass the virus to an unborn baby.
How Does Coronavirus Affect a Developing Fetus?
Many diseases affect pregnant women severely, leading to miscarriage, early labor or congenital abnormalities. So far, doctors have not reported any cases of coronavirus’s causing profound consequences on the fetus. There are no reports on whether the virus affects early pregnancies.
SARS and MERS did not appear to pose a threat to the fetus. Ashley Roman says that in both of the outbreaks, the respiratory diseases seemed to affect the mother more than cause preterm labor. According to the CDC, there have been reports of mothers infected with COVID-19 experiencing premature births, but it is not yet clear whether they were related to the disease.
Will Coronavirus Vaccines and Drugs Be Safe for Pregnant Women?
There are currently no drugs or vaccines to combat coronavirus. Generally, live vaccines like measles and chicken pox are mild forms of the diseases that have a theoretical risk on pregnant women. However, most vaccines for diseases like tetanus and influenza are safe. Permar noted that doctors have come to realize the importance of pregnant women’s getting vaccinated. She said that many of the vaccines being developed should be the type that doesn’t replicate as a live virus, adding that antiviral drugs should also be tested for safety.
What Can Pregnant Women Do?
Currently, all the information on COVID-19 is preliminary and limited. Doctors still need time to study the disease for a more extended period of time. Ashley Roman and Sallie Permar have some advice for pregnant women:
– Follow all standard procedures for preventing coronavirus. Wash your hands frequently and avoid coming into contact with other people;
– Follow up on CDC updates and instructions on breastfeeding;
– Be in touch with medical experts, especially if feeling sick.