Pregnancy itself can be a very stressful and overwhelming time. Adding a pandemic like COVID-19 can be extremely anxiety inducing. We are still learning how the virus impacts pregnancy and birth, and researchers are working hard to come up with the best recommendations to keep everyone healthy. This is what we know right now.
“We do not currently know if pregnant women have a greater chance of getting sick from COVID-19 than the general public nor whether they are more likely to have serious illness as a result. Pregnant women experience changes in their bodies that may increase their risk of some infections.”
What we do know is that the best way to protect yourself is to continue taking the same precautions recommended to the general public.
Cover your cough – use your elbow (not your hand!)
Clean your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
Avoid touching your face, nose, and mouth
Stay away from those who are sick
Because the immune system dips during pregnancy, it may be necessary to take extra precautions to keep yourself and your baby healthy.
Continue to practice social distancing – stay home unless you are an essential worker or need to seek medical care
Check with your provider before visiting their office, to find out what recommendations they have for your appointments. They may eliminate some “extra” visits or combine two visits into one (ie: ultrasound and prenatal check-up)
Ask your doctor for phone or telehealth visits, when possible
Consider wearing a mask when you go out in public, and avoid touching things as much as possible
What about labor and delivery?
You may have seen that many hospitals are changing their policy to limit the number of visitors on maternity wards. There may also be changes to who can be present during labor and delivery. You will need to speak to your provider and facility, to find out exactly who can be with you during that time period.
Understandably, these new guidelines may be upsetting to many. This is a time you want to celebrate and need support, and making sudden changes to birth plans can feel overwhelming or frustrating. It will be important to have a conversation with your doctor regarding these changes. Vocalize your needs and wishes to them, and try to work together to come up with a plan that makes you feel empowered, within these new guidelines. It is never the wrong time to advocate for yourself, and your provider needs to know how you feel in order to best meet your needs.
Equally important is to have a plan in place, should you or any additional caregivers become ill.
What if I do get sick?
Current CDC guidelines tell us:
“We still do not know if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the virus that causes COVID-19 to her fetus or baby during pregnancy or delivery. No infants born to mothers with COVID-19 have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. In these cases, which are a small number, the virus was not found in samples of amniotic fluid or breastmilk.”
This may be reassuring to know. But it is important to understand what may happen if you or your baby is diagnosed with the virus, and to have a plan in place.
At this time, those diagnosed with the virus are encouraged to quarantine. The risks and benefits of the temporary separation of the mother from her baby should be discussed with the healthcare team. This may mean another caregiver will be responsible for the majority of your infant’s care. The CDC and WHO are encouraging that breastfeeding mothers continue to provide their milk for their babies, as it is full of immunity-boosting and protective factors. You can read more about breastfeeding while sick here.
Ultimately, educating yourself and taking the recommended precautions are the best thing that you can do. Encourage those closest to you to take the same precautions. Be sure that they are educated on the possible risks as well.
If you need virtual support, our lactation professionals are available to help and you can send us an email to [email protected] with any questions you have.