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What You Need to Know About COVID-19 and Pregnancy?

WHO defines COVID-19 as a respiratory disease that affects everyone differently. The disease poses a high threat to people with underlying medical conditions or those over the age of 60. The risk of an increase in the severity of the disease is quite high, sometimes resulting in death. Meanwhile, some people can recover from the disease without any medications and treatment.

In this article, we have listed the primary symptoms of COVID-19 and also some additional symptoms from the WHO website. Along with the symptoms, we have also mentioned how the disease affects pregnant women and fetuses.


A] Coronavirus (COVID-19) Symptoms And Effects

Primary COVID-19 symptoms: Fever, fatigue, and dry cough.

Other COVID-19 symptoms: Sore throat, body aches, and pains, difficulty in breathing, nausea, diarrhea, nasal congestion or runny nose.

1. Severity of the Symptoms in Pregnant Women

Before COVID-19, there was no data to show that pregnant women are more sensitive to any viral illnesses. But the COVID-19 epidemic has shed light on new facts. Pregnancy affects women’s immune system in a way that could lead to severe symptoms. Apart from the primary symptoms, pregnant women could suffer from either hypoxia or pneumonia, which are symptoms observed in people above the age of 60.

2. Possible Preterm Births in Pregnant Women with COVID-19 Infection

So far, there has only been one published case of a woman with severe COVID-19 infection. The woman was admitted during 34 weeks of pregnancy and had to have an emergency C-section. After she gave birth to a stillborn baby, she was admitted to the ICU. The woman was put on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) support.

While there have been various cases of preterm birth in women with COVID-19, the doctors remain unsure of the cause. It could be the treatment for COVID-19 or due to the COVID-19 infection itself affecting the preterm delivery.

Find out if you are exhibiting COVID-19 Symptoms

The National Health Service website has taken the initiative to advise people and help them understand how to deal with their symptoms. To find out more, you can visit the following link.

Go here: https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19

B] Guidelines on How to Prevent a Coronavirus Infection in Pregnant Women

1. Develop and Maintain a Periodic Hand Washing Routine

  • Place your hand under running water, once wet, turn off the tap and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together with the soap, also lather between your fingers, under your nails, and the back of your hands.
  • Keep scrubbing for at least 20 seconds.
  • Now, turn on the tap and rinse your hands under the running water.

2. Practice Social Distancing and Possible Isolation

As the government has declared pregnant women to be vulnerable to the virus, complete social distancing is advice. Apart from the visit to the clinic for prenatal care, they should strictly practice isolation at home. Also, be vigilant and observe if you show any symptoms. Contact your doctor and get his advice on how to go further with your treatment.

C] How to Conduct Yourself When You Go Outside?

As pregnant women are considered to be vulnerable, they are at higher risks. If for some reason, a pregnant woman needs to leave the house, she should follow the below guidelines.

  • Do not interact with or touch people who show symptoms (fever or constant cough) of the COVID-19.
  • We strictly advise you to avoid gathering. It also includes gathering in homes, at parties, and religious services.
  • We strictly advise you to avoid travel, shopping, or other leisure activities. Whenever you order medication or healthy food for your pregnancy, the deliveries are to be left on the doorstep to reduce contact.
  • Use communications devices to stay in touch with your family and doctors. Contact your General Practitioner before planning a visit.

FAQs Regarding COVID-19 and Pregnancy

1. How to handle clinic appointments or routine checkups?

Women with no complications during their previous pregnancies are advised to contact their maternity unit before their routine checkup. Due to the limited staffing resources, the visit can be changed, and the patient will be kept apprised of the situation. Apart from the pregnant woman, only one other person might be allowed for the visit.

Do not rush to your maternity appointments before hearing from the team. While considering things, also ensure that you do not neglect maternity care due to the fear of COVID-19. Over the years, maternity care has developed at a level that reduces complications for mothers as well as babies. Not attending your checkups could cause serious harm to you or your baby or both of you.

Women affected with COVID-19 shouldn’t visit the maternity clinic. They should contact their maternity clinic. The clinic will arrange for a safe place, for their visit.

2. What to do if you fall ill or go into labour during the advised isolation period?

I] If the pregnant woman falls ill:

In case of an emergency or an urgent problem or illness other than coronavirus, a pregnant woman can contact the emergency number. But do not use it unless it’s an emergency. The maternity unit will then provide advice based on the severity of the woman’s condition and will confirm whether she needs to visit the hospital.

II] If the pregnant woman goes into labor:

Whether it’s a woman with confirmed COVID-19 infection or pregnant woman with suspected symptoms, both should follow the advice below:

  • Contact the maternity unit and inform them about your condition. If the symptoms aren’t severe, the pregnant woman might be asked to remain at home. The pregnant woman should only be taken to hospital when the maternity team decides it’s time.
  • Pregnant women are strictly advised to avoid public transport, use private travels or contact the 111 and arrange hospital transport.
  • At the maternity unit entrance, the pregnant woman will be provided with a surgical face mask that should be kept until she is isolated in a room.
  • The woman’s birth partner can stay with the pregnant woman for the entire process.

3. What are the risks for pregnant women with COVID-19 infections?

As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we daily come across new data. But we cannot yet assure that the infected pregnant woman will recover without any risk or that they cannot transmit the infection to their babies.

According to an Australian study, women in the later stages of pregnancy, their trimester, are more susceptible to develop severe COVID-19 infection. The transmission of coronavirus from mother to baby is a possibility.

4. How does COVID-19 Testing work?

A person with suspected COVID-19 symptoms can arrange for a test by contacting 111. After this, they will be either asked to visit the hospital for a test or be tested at home. The person will be provided with diagnostics swabs and will be advised to self-isolate. The swabs will be taken from the mouth and nose.

5. How should pregnant women who have tested positive for COVID-19 handle the situation?

Women who have tested positive for COVID-19 should inform their maternity team or midwife about the infection. Pregnant women who show mild symptoms will be asked to self-isolate at home. Those who have severe symptoms will be taken to the hospital for treatment.

6. Will the baby be tested for coronavirus? Can a pregnant woman pass the infection to the fetus?

Until recently, we had no data about infant fatalities or baby’s contracting coronavirus. But the death of a 6-week-old baby might have changed the picture. We have no conclusive cause of death as yet, but the baby tested positive for COVID-19 before it’s death. So far, there hasn’t been information about pregnant women in their last trimester passing the disease to the fetus.

7. Can the infected pregnant women breastfeed their newborn baby?

Breastfeeding remains a personal choice. There is no case of COVID-19 being transmitted through the breast-milk. Remember to take precautions before feeding your baby. Wash your hands before you touch the baby, use bottle or breast pump. Also, wear a face-mask while feeding the baby, and clean the pump as advised by the experts.

Read this blog to learn more about early pregnancy questions and answers.

References:

  1. WHO Covid Info: https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_3
  2. Pregnant Woman COVID-19 Study: https://www.journalofinfection.com/article/S0163-4453(20)30109-2/fulltext
  3. Washing Hands: https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html
  4. https://www.rcog.org.uk/coronavirus-pregnancy
  5. COVID-19 prevention for vulnerable people: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/major-new-measures-to-protect-people-at-highest-risk-from-coronavirus
  6. Death of a 6 week old infant: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/six-week-old-baby-dies-coronavirus-believed-to-be-youngest-fatality/

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