A Guide to Minimizing Exposure to the Novel Coronavirus During Pregnancy


 
Note - the World Health Organization is closely monitoring the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19). The situation is rapidly evolving and the information in this guide may become outdated as new updates are received. 


There’s new information being released almost daily about the COVID-19 pandemic. As a pregnant woman, you may be wondering where you fit in? What if any extra precautions should you be taking? How will this affect your ability to give birth?


We’ve reached out to various infectious disease specialists and health organizations to compile a list of answers for your questions. 


Please remember, recommendations and guidelines will continue to change as we learn more about this illness. 


COVID-19 is a disease that is caused by the new coronavirus. Due to it being a new virus exposed to humans, there is a lot that experts don’t know about the virus yet. As of April 12 when this post was published, the outbreak is confirmed in 213 countries and there are 1.7 million cases worldwide. The experts we spoke with confirmed that social distancing procedures are helping ‘flatten the curve’ but we don’t have an accurate timeline for how long these procedures will last. The situation varies country by country and region by region.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a type of virus. There are different kinds of coronaviruses, some with short-term and some with long-term effects. COVID-19 is caused by the “new” or novel coronavirus, meaning that it has never before been seen in humans. 
 

How does COVID-19 Spread?

What we currently know is that the new coronavirus is spread through droplets released into the air. These are released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Droplets in general don’t travel more than a few feet, and within seconds they will fall to the ground or onto surfaces. Social and physical distancing procedures are necessary to help prevent the spread. 

The incubation period for the virus ranges from 2 to 14 days. This means someone could become infected and not have any symptoms (be asymptomatic) for up to 14 days. This is why social distancing and hand washing are imperative.


Are Pregnant Women at Higher Risk for Infection of COVID-19?


Data and research about the novel coronavirus is still limited. The World Health Organization suggests that there is research that is currently underway to assess the impact of the virus on pregnant women. 

So far there is no evidence that women are at higher risk of severe illness than the general population, however the female body does change significantly during pregnancy. We know that the body and immune system can be negatively affected by some respiratory infections so it is imperative that pregnant women take necessary precautions to protect themselves against COVID-19.


What are the Symptoms of COVID-19?

COVID-19 Symptoms include: 

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Unexplained loss of taste or smell
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache

Learn more about COVID-19 Symptoms


How to Prevent Coronavirus During Pregnancy


The best form of protection against the coronavirus: 

  • Frequent hand washing -  always use soap and water and lather and clean all areas of the hands (especially under nails) for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching your face -  especially eyes, mouth and nose as this is how the virus enters the body
  • Maintain at least 6 ft of distance between other people - practice social distancing and avoid being in public areas
  • Practice respiratory hygiene - cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze. Dispose of any tissues used immediately. 

If you have a fever, cough or any difficulty breathing make sure to seek medical attention. Contact your local health authority before going to a health facility as procedures may be different due to the pandemic. 


Should I Wear a Mask?


Information about this has changed recently. Prior to April only those who were ill were requested to wear a mask to limit the spread of COVID-19. At this point, the CDC has noted that wearing a mask can help avoid spread as there are people who can be infected and not show symptoms. 


Wearing a mask does not 100% protect you from the virus as droplets can enter your system through the eyes. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid people who are sick or who have been exposed to the virus and to clean your hands often with soap and water. It is also helpful to disinfect frequently used surfaces.

Can I Pass the Virus Along to my Fetus or Newborn?


Mother-to-child transmission of the coronavirus is unlikely but the newborn can be susceptible to spread after birth. To date there have been very few cases of babies that have tested positive after birth. The virus has currently not been detected in amniotic fluid or breastmilk.


What Happens if I become Ill?


Do not simply go to your doctor’s office. It is very important to limit the spread of COVID. Each country and region may have different policies to limit the spread. It is best to call your doctor first to determine whether you need testing. The American College of Obstetrician and Gynaecologists has provided all OB-GYNs with a procedure for how to manage pregnant patients who have COVID-19 symptoms. Calling prior to visiting your doctor is critical because they may be able to triage your symptoms over the phone.


If I become Ill am I at Risk for Miscarriage?


To date there has not been any documentation about pregnant women having an increased risk of miscarriage or fetal malformation when becoming infected with COVID-19.


Can I Breastfeed?


Yes, breast milk is the best form of nutrition for infants and protection for many illnesses. There have been few studies and limited research regarding women spreading COVID-19 via breast milk. To date COVID-19 has not been detected in breast milk. 


Can I Still Travel for my Baby-Moon?


See the CDC Travel Advisories for up to date information about this topic. At this point the specialists we spoke to highly recommend avoiding all travel at this time. 


Should I Still Have a Baby Shower?


This is a very difficult topic to address as many of you have been waiting and organizing your baby shower for some months now. While a very joyous and important occasion, it’s best to postpone the baby shower for after all travel advisories and social distancing procedures are no longer in place. Large gatherings, especially when people are travelling from different areas increase the possible exposure of infection. 


Pregnancy Monitoring During COVID-19


The majority of you may have already switched to telemedicine and have been checking in with your doctor virtually. With some check-ups no longer being in person, it’s vital to have monitoring tools so that you can decrease your anxiety during pregnancy. Experts recommend using a fetal doppler to detect your baby’s heartbeat as early as 9 weeks. Through video calls you are able to share information and audio with your healthcare practitioner to be able to assess and monitor your baby’s health.


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