Everything You Need to Know About Pregnancy and COVID-19

Monday, March 08, 2021

     The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into the plans of expecting mothers all over the world. The regulations, policies, and approaches surrounding pregnancy significantly changed in a few months, making several would-be mothers feel troubled and confused.

     But don’t worry. There are guidelines in place that will help you manage your pregnancy and ensure that you and your baby are kept safe. If you’re an expecting mother or knows someone who is, here’s a quick rundown of the key things you need to know about pregnancy and COVID-19.

Everything You Need to Know About Pregnancy and COVID-19
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Risks During Pregnancy

     According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there’s an increased risk for pregnant people to fall severely ill from COVID-19. The COVID-19 virus can compromise their immune systems, making them more vulnerable to respiratory viruses. This can lead to respiratory complications, which may require intensive care down the line.

     As for the pregnancy itself, some studies suggest that pregnant people with COVID-19 are more likely to give preterm birth (less than 37 weeks). They are also more likely to do a cesarean delivery.

Do You Need to Get Vaccinated?

     A healthy body is a top priority for pregnant people. According to the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO), pregnant women are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19. As such, they can take the COVID-19 vaccine if they choose.

     WHO explains, “Based on what we know about this kind of vaccine, we don’t have any specific reasons to believe that there will be specific risks that would outweigh the benefits of vaccination for pregnant women.”

     The CDC adds that pregnant women do not require a doctor’s consultation before taking the vaccine. There is also no data yet that taking the vaccine may affect a breastfed baby. For a better understanding of how taking the vaccine may affect your pregnancy, do not hesitate to contact your doctor and discuss the subject in detail.

Can Pregnant Women Go to the Hospital?

     A lot of people are hesitant to go to the hospital due to the fear of getting infected. That said, pregnant women can still go, especially during emergencies. You just need to take extra measures that can ensure your safety. Call the hospital beforehand and inquire about their policies and guidelines on COVID-19. Make sure to also follow the standard protocol, such as wearing a mask and social distancing.

Labor and Delivery

     While most aspects of childbirth remain the same, there are new guidelines in place that several hospitals have put in place to protect their patients.

     Firstly, you and the person coming with you (e.g. partner, family member, doula) will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms first. This will help check if you may pose a threat to staff and other patients. If negative, you can proceed as scheduled. If positive, other protective measures will need to be put in place.

     Secondly, the number of people that can come with you and visit you are limited. Currently, only one person can stay with you throughout the process, and the number of visitors can vary per hospital. Bear in mind, however, that most hospitals do not allow husbands/partners in the delivery room.

     Lastly, expect to be screened every day to make sure that neither you nor your baby is infected with the virus. It’s a lot of work, but these are necessary steps to ensure the safety of everyone in the healthcare facility.

Postpartum Care

     The period right after birth is a critical time for both the mother and the baby. When any of the two are infected with COVID-19, here are some of the commonly asked questions regarding taking care of the baby.

Can You Pass COVID-19 to Newborn Babies?

     Currently, there is no clear answer to this question. While there are babies who have COVID-19, it’s difficult to ascertain whether they got infected before, during, or after birth. More studies are needed to find out more about this subject.

Can Breastfeeding Pass COVID-19 to Infants?

     For those concerned about breastfeeding, research suggests that passing the virus through breast milk is unlikely. However, there is a concern in the scientific community on whether the small respiratory droplets from the mother may infect the baby, due to their close range during breastfeeding. Again, this requires more research and study before any conclusions on the topic.

     In a SmartParenting.com.ph article, the Department of Health and the World Health Organization recommends that breastfeeding mothers wash their hands thoroughly before breastfeeding and wear a mask when nursing.

Can You Put a Mask or Face Shield on Your Baby?

     No. Don’t put masks or face shields on infants. Babies move around a lot, so the masks and shields may block their airways and impede their breathing. This increases the risk for accidents like suffocation or strangulation, more formally known as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

How do You Take Care of the Baby if You’re Infected?

     If you tested positive for COVID-19, the hospital and you need to make special arrangements. One of these includes deciding whether the baby stays in the room with you or not. Either way, stick to the following guidelines to ensure your baby’s safety:
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before handling the baby.
  • Wear a face mask to prevent the spread of respiratory droplets.
  • If the baby is staying in the same room, place the baby’s crib more than six feet away from your bed. You can also opt to place the infant in an incubator for a more isolated environment.
  • After your isolation period and you’ve healed, continue to wash your hands before handling the baby.

What are the Symptoms of COVID-19 among Infants?

     The last thing you want is for your baby to be infected. That said, you need to keep a lookout on the following symptoms:
  • Fever
  • Overly tired or inactive
  • Diarrhea
  • Poor feeding
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Vomiting
  • Shallow breathing

     The earlier you can pinpoint these symptoms, the earlier you can address them. Don’t hesitate to contact a healthcare provider or seek emergency care for especially troubling signs like shallow breathing.

     Giving birth during a pandemic can feel scary, but remember that you’re not alone. With the help of healthcare providers and strict compliance to the proper protocol, you can ensure a safe and loving environment for your new baby. Taking the extra measures for protection is a step you won’t regret.

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