Pregnancy is often a time fraught with medical concerns. Pregnancy during a pandemic adds much to that anxiety. While it is still too early for medical experts to know exactly how COVID-19 may affect you and your baby, below is a roundup of helpful information for moms-to-be as they navigate the unchartered territory of being pregnant in the time of COVID-19.
Pregnant women (and everyone else) should follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19. The CDC recommends:
Data released by the CDC suggest that pregnant women with COVID-19 are more likely to be hospitalized and are at increased risk for intensive care unit (ICU) admission and receipt of mechanical ventilation than nonpregnant women. Risk of death is similar for both groups. The CDC has indicated that much remains unknown.
The CDC does not recommend skipping prenatal care appointments during the pandemic. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says that fewer or more spaced out in-person doctor visits and the use of telemedicine may be an option for some pregnant women.
Although currently the ACOG states that it is not likely that COVID-19 is passed to a fetus during pregnancy, there is emerging research that in utero transmission is indeed possible. However, it is unclear what this means in terms of consequences for the pregnancy or the newborn.
The CDC states that testing of asymptomatic pregnant women is at the discretion of the healthcare provider and the facility.
The CDC recommends that babies born to women with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 be tested, regardless of whether they show signs of infection.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend early hospital discharge for babies born to mothers who don’t have COVID-19. According to the AAP, early discharge may place additional burdens on families to access, and on outpatient pediatric offices to provide, recommended newborn care, screenings and outpatient follow-up.
According to the AAP, the extent of risk to an infant in this situation is not presently known. The AAP states that separating the infant and mother, at least temporarily, is the safest course of action for minimizing the likelihood that the infant becomes infected.
Both the AAP and CDC say that breast milk is not considered to be a likely source for transmission of COVID-19. Mothers may express breast milk, after appropriate breast and hand hygiene, and while wearing a face mask, and allow an uninfected caregiver to feed the baby. If a mother wants to nurse her infant, the AAP and CDC recommend wearing a mask and, again, exercising appropriate breast and hand hygiene.
The AAP and CDC both say that children under age 2 should not wear face masks. Infants and toddlers may be unable to remove a mask if they are having difficulty breathing and may be unable to alert you to a problem, like an older child can. Additionally, masks, similar to blankets and crib bumpers, may restrict air flow if they are pressed against the face and potentially could be a cause for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Many doctors have stressed the importance of continuing to adhere to social distancing and not allowing family and friends to meet your new bundle-of-joy in person. The good news is that there are many technologies available, such as FaceTime, Skype and Houseparty, by which you can share this special occasion while maintaining everyone’s safety.
As in all cases, we recommend that pregnant women discuss with their doctor, midwife or other healthcare provider any concerns they may have about their own health and that of their baby. Communicating with your healthcare provider is particularly important as we continue to learn more about COVID-19.
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