Pregnancy and COVID: A Q&A
In these unprecedented times, expectant mothers may have concerns about coronavirus and its effects on pregnancy. Atlanta Parent spoke to Denise J. Jamieson, MD, MPH, the department chair of Gynecology & Obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine and an adjunct professor of epidemiology at Rollins School of Public Health, about what pregnant mothers should do to protect themselves during this time.
Besides social distancing and hand washing, what else can a pregnant woman do to protect herself from the coronavirus?
In addition, to all the things we are telling everyone to do to avoid COVID, such as social distancing, frequent hand washing, wearing a mask and staying away from other people as much as possible, pregnant women should take some extra steps to ensure their safety during this COVID-19 epidemic. Pregnant women should make sure they have a birth plan which includes some emergency provisions. For example, who will take care of her baby if she and/or her partner are sick near delivery? Does she have enough food and supplies for the first week after the birth of her baby?
Can she go out? If so, should she always wear a mask, even if it’s a place where you can maintain a six foot distance?
Pregnant women, like everyone, should avoid crowds and self-quarantine when possible. If her job is essential, such as a health care worker, she can continue to work. However, we advise everyone, including pregnant women, to wear masks when leaving the home.
What about prenatal visits? Are most OBs still seeing patients on a regular basis?
Many obstetric providers are spacing out visits so that pregnant women do not have to come for as many prenatal visits. This has been done in other settings outside of COVID-19 and seems to be safe. Obstetric providers are also providing some prenatal care virtually with telehealth visits. When pregnant women do come for prenatal care, offices are taking precautions to ensure their patients’ safety, including limiting or eliminating visitors and ensuring that patients are six feet apart or more when possible, including the waiting room.
What should she do if she thinks she has the coronavirus?
If a pregnant women thinks she has coronavirus, she should call her OB provider. She should not go to the emergency room or her doctor’s office unexpectedly. She should call and get specific instructions for what to do and where to go.
Is there any information available yet about the effects of COVID-19 on pregnancy and unborn babies?
There is now some evidence that COVID-19 may be more severe in pregnant women compared with non-pregnant women. This highlights how important it is that if a pregnant woman feels ill or has symptoms, she calls her doctor. In terms of the baby, there is no evidence that COVID-19 causes birth defects. Although there are now some cases of the virus being passed to the fetus during pregnancy or childbirth, this seems to happen only rarely. Once the baby is born, an ill mother can pass the virus to her baby.
What hospital procedures will be different right now? Who can accompany the mother to the hospital for delivery?
Most hospitals are limiting visitors to one support person during the delivery hospitalization. That needs to be the same person throughout labor. Visitors are asked to stay in the room and not visit other areas in the hospital, such as the cafeteria or nursery. Labor and delivery units are carefully screening all patients and visitors for symptoms. If a pregnant woman has symptoms, she is asked to wear a mask, and she is separated from others. L&D staff have increased their use of personal protective equipment, including the use of masks. Surfaces in the hospital are being frequently cleaned and disinfected. Measures are being taken to ensure social distancing, as much as possible, in the hospital setting including waiting and registration areas.
What about breastfeeding?
If a woman has COVID-19, then she and her doctor should discuss various options. One option is for her to express her milk and feed the milk to her infant. Another option is to breastfeed her baby after washing her hands carefully and while wearing a mask.
What would you tell mothers if they’re expecting their first baby during this time?
The safest place to have a baby is still in a hospital, so I would not advise pregnant women to change their plans for delivery due to COVID-19. Pregnant mothers should have an emergency plan in place for her family, in case she or someone else in the family becomes ill.
With stores closed and Amazon deliveries being delayed, what necessities should parents try to get if they’re expecting their baby in the next few months?
New mothers and their families will need food, diapers, wipes, a car seat, a crib and other necessities.
Are there any tips to help pregnant moms cope with anxiety right now?
The majority of babies born in the next few months will be healthy and will not be affected by COVID-19. I think it is also important to remember that we will get through this. Once we have a safe and effective vaccine, COVID-19 will no longer be a major public health threat. Although my children will remember the months they spent in quarantine, your newborn baby will be blissfully unaware.
What other advice or recommendations do you have for moms?
Try to cherish motherhood and time spent with your baby despite all that is going on around you.