What You Need to Know About COVID-19 for Your Pregnancy
The novel coronavirus of 2019 or COVID-19 rapidly moved from epidemic to pandemic status within a matter of months. Understandably, countries, including the United States, are taking emergency measures to slow the infection rate of this highly contagious illness.
There's a lot of information floating around the internet on this matter — some great and others not so good — and we've gathered the most credible sources available on what exactly is COVID-19, what it means for your pregnancy, and how you can protect yourself and family from the coronavirus.
While we strive to present only the most credible news on COVID-19, the information in this article should not replace the medical advice provided by your doctor, the WHO, CDC, or other international health organizations. Because this is a new virus, health experts are still working hard to understand this virus.
- What Is COVID-19?
- What Are The Symptoms Of COVID-19?
- Are You More At Risk Of Contracting COVID-19 While Pregnant?
- Can You Pass COVID-19 To Your Baby While Pregnant?
- How COVID-19 May Affect Pregnancies
- What Can You Do To Protect Yourself And Your Family From COVID-19?
- The Takeaway: What COVID-19 Means For Pregnant Women
What Is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is short for coronavirus discovered in 2019. COVID-19 comes from a large family of viruses called the Coronaviridae, which are estimated to cause about 33.3% of all cases of the common cold.
COVID-19 infects the deep lungs where oxygen exchange takes place. It's believed to spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets in close contact with an infected person. These droplets can land on someone's eyes, nose, or mouth in close contact. Droplets containing the virus can remain airborne for up to 30 minutes (or more depending on weather conditions) before falling on surfaces, where it can linger for much longer and can be picked up by someone touching these surfaces.
What makes this virus particularly dangerous is the rate it spreads and how long it takes for infected people to show symptoms. People who have contracted COVID-19 may not show symptoms (asymptomatic) until days later, making tracing COVID-19's movements very difficult.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received reported cases of children and infants who have contracted COVID-19. However, adults make up most of the known cases to date.
The most susceptible to severe symptoms of COVID-19 are the elderly and those who are immune-compromised with conditions that make it difficult for their body to fight off infections. This population of immunocompromised may include those with heart disease, lung conditions, diabetes, cancer, and lupus.
What Are The Symptoms Of COVID-19?
The symptoms of coronavirus can range in severity. And as we briefly mentioned, people infected with COVID-19 don't always show signs and are the most considerable risk for spreading the virus.
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
If you believe you've been exposed to the coronavirus or are showing these symptoms, you should manage the symptoms at home in self-isolation to avoid spreading the virus.
If you're immunocompromised or at a higher risk for severe symptoms, it's a good idea to let your health care provider know you're sick and pregnant. They may offer some valuable advice. If your symptoms worsen and you feel that you need to see a doctor, call them ahead of time so that they can make the necessary preparations for your arrival to avoid contamination.
In case of any medical emergency, call 911 and let the operator know that you believe you are pregnant, how far along your pregnancy is, and that you think you have COVID-19. If possible, wear a face mask and unlock your front door before medical help arrives.
Are You More At Risk Of Contracting COVID-19 While Pregnant?
As COVID-19 is a new disease, there is still a lot to uncover about the virus. At the time of writing this article, March 19, 2020, the CDC currently does not know if pregnant women are at a higher risk of getting sick from COVID-19 or if they're more susceptible to severe illness from the virus.
In general, pregnant women's immune systems are undergoing many changes — one of the most common myths is that pregnant women's immune system becomes suppressed during pregnancy. However, this is a broad-sweeping oversimplification of the immune response, which may prevent experts from creating adequate guidelines for treating pregnant women during pandemics.
The immune system is, in fact, active. In essence, it behaves differently (some parts of the immune response slow down, while others activate) to support and protect both the growing fetus and mom.
There are factors during pregnancy that may result in a weaker immune system, including stress and changes in hormones. One of the best ways to ensure your immune system is running at its best is to practice stress management techniques, eat nutrient-dense foods, and to stay active while pregnant.
Can You Pass COVID-19 To Your Baby While Pregnant?
While certain viral infections can get passed to babies from the mother during pregnancy or birth (vertical transmission), there's no research supporting that pregnant women who have contracted COVID-19 can give the virus to their baby during pregnancy or delivery.
There are currently no infants born to mothers with COVID-19 who have tested positive for the virus themselves, and the small samples taken of amniotic fluid, breastmilk, umbilical cord blood, and babies' throat swabs did not test positive for containing the virus.
COVID-19 doesn't seem to be vertically transmitted. However, it's worth mentioning that mothers with COVID-19 may experience complications that may affect the health of her baby. Again, studies on this topic are minimal as COVID-19 is a new disease.
There are many health professionals studying the effects of COVID-19, and it's essential to remain up to date on the news from credible sources such as:
- The World Health Organization
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- The New England Journal of Medicine
- Elsevier Novel Coronavirus Information Center
How COVID-19 May Affect Pregnancies
There have been reported cases in China of premature deliveries due to the COVID-19. It's unclear whether or not the coronavirus itself induced early labor or if doctors made the decisions to deliver these babies because the mothers were unwell.
One of the foremost health concerns for both pregnant women and babies born to mothers infected with COVID-19 is the reduction of oxygen supply to the body.
The COVID-19 attacks the cells deep within the lungs where gas exchange takes place. A severe case of coronavirus may result in viral pneumonia, which can drastically reduce lung capacity making it difficult to get an abundant supply of oxygen into the bloodstream.
There's also research that supports that COVID-19 interferes with blood production by attacking heme that forms blood cells (hemoglobin) that carry oxygen.
A healthy supply of oxygen is critical during pregnancy as the lungs provide oxygen for both mom and baby. If the fetus doesn't receive enough oxygen, they have an increased risk of congenital disabilities.
What Can You Do To Protect Yourself And Your Family From COVID-19?
There is no vaccine or cure to prevent the COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19 is to avoid exposure to this highly contagious virus.
Here are some of the CDC recommended steps you can take to protect yourself:
Clean Your Hands Often
One of the best ways to protect yourself from COVID-19 or other infections is to practice good hygiene — wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If you don't have water on hand, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% or more alcohol content.
Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands, and make sure to always clean your hands after being in public, using the restroom, coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
Practice Social Distancing
COVID-19 mainly spreads from close person-to-person contact (within 6 feet) through respiratory droplets containing the virus. Pregnant women should place more distance between themselves and others as a precaution and limit exposure to crowded areas.
If you need groceries or have other errands to run, see if these services are offered online, or have someone in your household run the errand for you.
Clean And Disinfect Your Home Daily
Use household disinfectants to clean frequently touched surfaces in your home daily, such as doorknobs, light switches, counters, your cellphone, and fridge handle.
You can use beach and water solutions on certain surfaces at a ratio of 1:9 or purchase household cleaners after cleaning dirty surfaces with soap and water.
The Takeaway: What COVID-19 Means For Pregnant Women
There currently isn't any research to support that pregnant women are more susceptible to COVID-19. Still, you should take the necessary measures to protect yourself, your family, and other vulnerable people in your community.
COVID-19 has caused a lot of uncertainty and anxiety for many families around the world. Let's all do our part to support each other and our communities by radiating positivity and doing our part to stop the rapid spread of this virus.