In conversations about who could be at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus, a lot of emphasis has been placed on older people and those with preexisting medical conditions. But what about pregnant women?
Though they haven’t been noted as needing to be on high alert during this time of concern, expectant mothers are, naturally, a group in a higher risk category for different illnesses. The immune system changes greatly during pregnancy to help protect baby and mother, but at a certain point, suppressed immunity happens to keep the system from treating the fetus as a negative foreign body. So if outside germs invade and viruses are contracted while a woman is carrying a child, no matter the sickness, it’s a problem.
“The biggest risk factor for when you get sick when you’re pregnant is having a fever. That’s probably the one thing that has been more associated with miscarriage or stillbirth, especially if you get a fever in the first trimester. But that could be a fever from any cause,” said Stephanie Marshall Thompson, M.D. of the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science (IRMS) in Livingston, New Jersey. “Other than that, in those cases, it’s just really about supportive care, making sure you get enough rest, stay well hydrated and ask your doctor about any potential medications you want to take before taking them.”
But there is not enough known just yet about the coronavirus and how it could impact you and your baby. It’s also unclear when a vaccine will be ready for those affected. At the same time though, in the limited cases so far, there haven’t been any maternal deaths. The disease is mild in infants as well as children, and there have been no deaths in children under 10 years old. So should you be especially worried at this time if you’re with child? Thompson says don’t panic, but do take the precautions put in place to quell the coronavirus seriously.
“Luckily, so far, we don’t know of any cases of maternal to fetal transmission, but obviously that could change,” she said. “Also, pregnant women, though there is always the risk of maternal complications and they’re considered in the high-risk group, the majority of children who do get coronavirus tend to have mild symptoms. So it’s different from those people who are elderly or compromised.”
She says medical professionals are advocating for routine prenatal care for moms, social distancing, and good hygiene. In addition, pregnant women should be screened based on their travel history and exposure to contacts who may have shown signs of fever or respiratory distress. If you notice you have a cough, fever or difficulty breathing, seek out medical attention.
“It’s very, very important for us to have social distancing, especially as we don’t have adequate testing for the disease, we don’t know who could possibly be affected at this point,” she said. “And even though it tends to be milder in younger people and children, it is really out of a concern for our elderly and compromised population that we are practicing social distancing.”
Same precautions should be taken even if you’re not pregnant. The social distancing is especially important in being considerate of the fact that you don’t know who could be carrying the disease, nor who could be exposed if you, yourself, unknowingly have been exposed. It’s all about controlling the virus right now.
And as pregnant women already take extra special precautions when it comes to the food they eat, though you can still order food or pick it up if necessary, Thompson said you should try not to expose yourself to others if you don’t need to.
“That’s why staying at home with your family and cooking at home is probably the way to go because there’s really no reason for us to be out and about at this point in time,” she said. “You want to make sure you’re filtering who you do have contact with.”
Overall, women who are pregnant should be on the same level of alert as most people. Wash your hands very often. Keep your distance from large crowds and being out in general if you don’t have to be. Your close contacts and family members should do the same. However, she says you don’t need to be in panic mode about everything.
“Stay calm,” Thompson concluded. “It is just a precaution to stop the spread of disease at this point. There’s no reason to panic, as the outcomes for your babies will generally be good. It is just truly a precaution to prevent others around you from getting the disease too, including those in high-risk populations.”