The COVID-19 pandemic, also known as the coronavirus, has spread quickly and generated a startling infection rate. Countries across the world have implemented social distancing and lockdown procedures, people suspected of infection have been quarantined, and hospitals are working around the clock as the influx of new patients threatens to grow beyond the number of available hospital beds and ventilators.
For pregnant women, this crisis can be particularly frightening. Pregnancy is one of the most meaningful and positive experiences in the lives of many women, but can also be one of the most vulnerable. The Birth Injury Lawyers Group wants to provide you with accurate, up-to-date information about the coronavirus so that you can combat the coronavirus rumors and protect yourself and your unborn baby.
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My Level of Risk as a Pregnant Woman
Across the board, medical and health organizations fail to see increased risk or symptoms among pregnant women. However, it must be stressed that it is simply too early for doctors to know for certain whether pregnant women are at a higher risk for infection, or whether COVID-19 affects pregnant women more negatively than others.
Caution Is Advised
In its Q&A on COVID-19, pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding, the World Health Organization (WHO) stresses that the bodies of pregnant women undergo radical changes in chemistry and hormones. Due to this fact, some pregnant women have been known to have especially adverse reactions to respiratory infections similar to the coronavirus. For this reason, it is best to abide by the safety precautions recommended for lowering the COVID-19 infection curve. These strategies include the following.
- Limiting in-person interactions when possible
- Social distancing
- Wearing protective gear like face masks and gloves in public
- Washing hands with soap and water
- Abstaining from touching your face
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Risks to My Child
Understandably, many pregnant women worry about the risk of spreading an infection like the coronavirus to their child in utero. While it is known that viruses in the same general family as coronavirus, such as influenza, can have devastating effects on pregnant women, more research is needed to learn whether COVID-19 has an impact on the baby.
Currently, the data suggests that coronavirus is not spread to the baby in utero, during labor, or during delivery, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. In fact, the virus has not been detected in amniotic fluid, suggesting that it is not transmitted from mother to child before the baby is born. However, a definitive answer to this question is still forthcoming, as more research is required.
For example, there have been a few pregnant women with COVID-19 who have endured preterm births. Unfortunately, we do not know whether the preterm births were caused by the presence of coronavirus, though this seems unlikely. The World Health Organization recommends a cesarean section (c-section) only when medically justified and not as a matter of course for pregnant women with COVID-19.
Transmission After My Baby Is Born
Though the medical community is not yet sure whether the virus can spread to a baby in the womb, a child who has been born becomes fully susceptible to the same risks as everyone else. A limited number of babies have tested positive for coronavirus, though hospitals are unsure whether this is the result of in utero transmission or post-birth infection.
Physical contact with a sick person can infect a baby just as easily as it can infect anyone else, so it is important to limit your baby’s exposure. For example, you may want to engage in the following procedures to help ensure that your baby is insulated from coronavirus, especially if you suffer from any of the symptoms of COVID-19.
- Wash your hands before holding your child.
- Limit the number of people, including family members, who have access to your child.
- Wear a facemask when holding your child, especially if you are infected.
Good Practices to Stay Healthy
Other than abiding by the social distancing guidelines in your state, the usual recommendations for prenatal health during pregnancy are still applicable. Of course, you should avoid the consumption of alcohol, tobacco products, and illegal drugs. If you need to partake of prescription or over-the-counter medication, make sure that you consult with your doctor or obstetrician-gynecologist beforehand. Other ways of maintaining your personal health and lowering your risk of contracting any illness include the following.
- Regular exercise
- Healthy eating
- Consistent sleep cycles
- Supplementing your diet with folic acid
More tips for a healthy pregnancy can be found at familydoctor.org (a resource from the American Academy of Family Physicians).
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Life After Birth
Even though this may be a scary time for expectant mothers, the birth of a child is also exciting and joyous. There are numerous resources available to help you assuage your fears of COVID-19, including FAQs from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Post-birth life can be challenging even in the best of times, and surely the presence of coronavirus and the accompanying hysteria does not help pregnant women to relax and enjoy these first few months with your new baby. Below are some answers you may find helpful.
Breastfeeding in the Era of COVID-19
You will be glad to hear that the virus has not been detected in breast milk in the limited studies performed by medical experts. This suggests that, with proper cautionary measures, breastfeeding is possible and low-risk even for mothers infected with the coronavirus.
The decision of whether to breastfeed and when to start ultimately resides with you and your personal doctor. However, the CDC recommends the following precautions to ensure that your breastfeeding experience is as safe as possible for both you and your baby.
- Wearing a face mask
- Washing hands before each feeding time
- Washing hands before touching any pump or pump parts
- Letting an uninfected person feed the baby after breast milk expression, if possible
- Dedicating a pump to use while you are infected
- Cleaning the breast pump and pump parts after each feeding
Skin-to-Skin Contact with My Baby
Even if you are diagnosed with the coronavirus, the WHO still recommends skin-to-skin contact after birth. As long as you wash your hands before and after touching your baby, and keep surfaces clean, you should be allowed to hold and breastfeed your child. Modern medicine has found that close contact helps a baby thrive and strengthens the bond between mother and baby.
Given the necessary social distancing measures that have changed our daily lives, it is understandable for expectant mothers to worry about their safety and the safety of their babies. As of now, the risk appears to be the same for pregnant women as it is for all of us, and the same practical safety measures can help lower your risk of infection.