Pregnancy is special in many ways: It’s a time of joy and anticipation, it’s a time of bonding and growth, and it’s a time when you have to take extra measures to keep yourself and your developing baby strong and healthy.
Under normal circumstances, this means the usual — eating right, getting plenty of exercise, keeping your blood sugar level, maintaining a healthy weight, and monitoring your baby’s progress to name a few established practices.
But these are unprecedented times. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us all to amp up our personal hygiene and maintain safe social distancing. So what does this mean for you and your developing baby?
Your question is one that’s echoed around the world as pregnant mothers everywhere seek answers about the best practices during the outbreak. To put your mind at ease and give you some practical information, Dr. Alexandra Pellicena, an experienced OB/GYN practitioner here in Houston, Texas, offers the latest guidelines for pregnant women concerned about COVID-19.
Latest research regarding COVID-19 and pregnancy
Doctors have long recognized that respiratory illnesses are common in pregnant women as increased blood volume, hormonal fluctuations, and other body changes can worsen the effects of pre-existing conditions like asthma and COPD or introduce new symptoms.
When you’re pregnant, you’re eating, drinking, and breathing for two, so your body is taxed to it’s limit. This means that viruses such as the flu and COVID-19 may hit you harder than others.
On June 25, 2020, the CDC confirmed pregnancy as a risk factor for more severe illness from COVID-19. In addition, the CDC identified an increased risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes, including preterm birth, in pregnant women with COVID-19 infection.
The first line of defense is to prevent coming in contact with the virus; so do what everyone else is doing, but as a pregnant woman be extra diligent:
- Wash your hands frequently for a full 20 seconds
- Stay home if possible, and at least six feet away from others when you’re in public
- Cover your sneezes and coughs, and throw tissues away immediately
- Disinfect all surfaces often
- Wear a protective mask
These are the guidelines for the general population, and whether you’re pregnant or not, you should comply. Make sure that those in your household follow these rules as well.
Prenatal care during COVID-19
Prenatal care is key to a healthy pregnancy and birth. If you are concerned about being exposed to COVID-19 during a routine visit, we’ve got you covered.
Dr. Pellicena and our entire team practice extreme care in our office. Our facility has been thoroughly sanitized, and we continue to go above and beyond the recommended disinfecting practices of the medical community.
That said, we also offer the option of telemedicine, which allows you to participate in regular check-ins during your pregnancy without leaving your home. You just click on a link at your appointment time and have a one-on-one, face-to-face conversation with Dr. Pellicena.
This way, she can monitor your progress, answer questions, address concerns, and then schedule an in-person appointment if necessary.
COVID-19 after birth of the baby
Before birth, it’s highly unlikely that your baby will contract COVID-19. But once they’re born, babies can become susceptible to the virus. If you or another caregiver is carrying the virus, even if you have no symptoms, you can pass it along to your baby.
At this point, only a very small percentage of newborns have tested positive for COVID-19. Because research is still extremely limited, we can’t say definitely when or how the infection occurred in those few cases.
Dr. Pellicena recommends taking all the precautions outlined above to increase your chances of keeping you and your baby healthy.
Breastfeeding and COVID-19
Again, research is limited, but none of the data suggest that newborns contract COVID-19 from breastfeeding. This virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets, not breast milk. If you do plan to breastfeed, make sure you wear a mask to protect your baby from your own potentially infectious respiratory droplets.
The good news is that breast milk is the best way to give your infant a fighting chance against COVID-19 or any other illness. Your breast milk contains countless factors that protect against infectious diseases and boost immunity.
If you need to pump your breast milk, make sure that you clean all the parts well before and after each session.
While you’re right to be concerned about COVID-19 during your pregnancy, that concern will serve you and your baby best if you use it to adopt sensible hygiene habits and social distancing. Don’t let unwarranted fear keep you from continuing your essential prenatal care or from breastfeeding, if that’s your choice.
If you have any questions or concerns about your pregnancy or how COVID-19 plays a role, don’t hesitate to call us or make a telemedicine appointment today.