Being pregnant during the COVID-19 pandemic poses a concern for women. Taking precautions can help ensure a healthy pregnancy for mom and baby.
During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through many changes as the egg becomes fertilized and grows into a fetus. Pregnancy already puts more strain on a healthy woman’s heart, lungs, kidneys and immune system. Contracting the virus that causes COVID-19 during pregnancy could put a woman at a higher risk of complications.
The Risk of the COVID-19 During Pregnancy
The immune system is naturally weaker during pregnancy. This weakening allows the fetus to grow without being rejected by the mother’s body. While this helps a fetus grow and develop, it also means that pregnant women are at a higher risk of contracting various illnesses, such as urinary tract infections, colds and the flu. Previous research on coronaviruses has shown that pregnant women aren’t more likely to contract the virus than non-pregnant women, meaning that pregnant women have the same chance of being infected by the virus that causes COVID-19 as other women, however, complications and additional risks may be more present in pregnant women.
Some people who contract COVID-19 have mild symptoms while others have severe complications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pregnant women may be more likely to develop severe complications and an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant women, however research on the correlation between pregnancy and COVID-19 is ongoing and symptoms can depend on previous underlying conditions and external factors. Pregnant women with COVID-19 also risk developing complications with their pregnancy, such as preterm birth.
Avoiding the Coronavirus During Pregnancy
Because there is an increased risk of complications, it is important for pregnant women to avoid contracting the coronavirus. Take precautions and follow any guidelines given by the doctor. The CDC also recommends the following:
- Staying away from people who have COVID-19
- Maintaining a distance of at least six feet from people who don’t reside in the same household
- Wearing masks when out in public
- Practicing good hygiene, such as frequent hand washing
Women Who Contract the Coronavirus During Pregnancy
Those who contract the coronavirus during their pregnancy will need to be closely monitored. If they are close to their due date, the doctor may suggest inducing the baby to allow the mom more strength to heal from the virus.
The Effects of the Coronavirus on Babies
Not everything is known about the effects of contracting the new coronavirus during pregnancy. However, early research shows that things are more complicated than initially believed. Aside from the complications previously mentioned, the baby is also at risk. It isn’t known if the coronavirus passes to the fetus in-utero; however, newly-birthed babies have tested positive for the virus. There has been no evidence of the virus found in the amniotic fluid, cord blood or in breast milk. This evidence suggests that the virus was contracted during birth or shortly thereafter rather than in the womb.
The CDC is recommending that women who have COVID-19 at the time of birth quarantine from their baby for 14 days if the baby’s test results are negative. Babies have an underdeveloped immune system that could put them at risk of complications should they contract the virus.
New Potential Treatments with Breast Milk
New studies are currently looking at the link between the antibodies in breast milk and treating patients with COVID-19. Medications could potentially be developed based on these antibodies.
These antibodies are the reason why it is important for new moms who have or who had the coronavirus to breastfeed their babies. These antibodies can help protect the baby from becoming ill in the future.
More research must be done to look at the effects that the coronavirus has on both pregnant mothers and their babies. As research continues to unfold, the latest recommendations will be given to OB/GYNs so that they may treat their patients in the best manner possible.