Coronavirus: What pregnant women need to know

"Statistics suggest some doctors are putting women and their babies at unnecessary risk by encouraging them to undergo a very invasive surgery."
"Statistics suggest some doctors are putting women and their babies at unnecessary risk by encouraging them to undergo a very invasive surgery."

If you're pregnant or breastfeeding you're probably concerned about the coronvirus headlines that are taking over the news lately. 

It's understandable, as the virus makes its way around the globe and people panic, you'll be worried about your health and that of your unborn baby. 

We've investigated, and here we share all the facts and resources you need to keep calm and carry on. See some of the most common questions, and answers, below:

First, how likely are you to catch Covid-19?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the risk depends on where you are, and whether there is a Covid-19 outbreak unfolding in your area. 

People living in, or visiting, areas where an outbreak has been reported, are at higher risk of catching it.

You can stay up to date on confirmed cases with these Situation Reports from the WHO. 

Are pregnant women at increased risk, compared with the general public?

According to the Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) pregnant women do not appear to be at higher risk of severe disease.

In an investigation of 147 pregnant women (64 confirmed, 82 suspected and 1 asymptomatic), 8% had severe disease and 1% were critical.

But since pregnant women experience so many changes while pregnant, they may become more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including Covid-19.

Can a pregnant woman infect her baby in the womb?

From one small study, research suggests that the Covid-19 virus cannot be transmitted from an infected pregnant woman to her unborn baby.

In the study, the nine women developed pneumonia in their third trimester, as a result of their infection, but gave birth to healthy babies. All these babies were delivered via Cesarean section to minimise risk of transmission. 

It is important to stress that the real effects of the virus on women in early pregnancy are not yet known. 

Can a mother infect her newborn baby?

During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommended that pregnant women who gave birth be separated from their infants until they were no longer infectious. 

The women were encouraged to express and then discard their breast milk until they were illness-free, Dr. Jamieson, one of three experts who worked on the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ guidelines for treating pregnant women infected with the coronavirus, told the New York Times recently,

She added that similar measures may be necessary with the new coronavirus, even though separating moms and babies is a difficult issue.

Can a mother infect her breastfed baby?

The CDC reiterates that person-to-person spread occurs mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, much like how flu and other respiratory pathogens spread.

In the few studies on women with this and other coronavirus infections, the virus has not been detected in breast milk.

However it is not known whether mothers with Covid-19 can transmit the virus via breast milk.

Precautionary measures and symptoms 

Dr. Jamieson says that pregnant women should take the same precautions as everyone else to avoid getting sick, but to also let their doctors know immediately if they are experiencing any symptoms. 

Symptoms include:

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough, and some patients have reported aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.

Some people become infected, but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell. 

If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care immediately.

Reduce your chances of becoming infected by:

  • Washing your hands
  • Avoiding touching potential infected areas
  • Avoiding touching your face, mouth or eyes
  • Avoiding contact with infected people
  • Encouraging those around you to cough or sneeze into a tissue
  • Self-isolating by avoiding large groups or close contact with people 

More on coronavirus:

PODCAST | PARENT24/7: We talked to a doctor about coronavirus and your kids

Coronavirus: Is it safe to take your kids to daycare, and other questions parents ask

Why are kids not contracting the coronavirus in a big way?

Coronavirus: Will South African schools be closing, and what will that mean to parents?

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