While we enter unchartered waters as the coronavirus pandemic goes on, you may find yourself facing a new set of worries and multiple questions. Gabriel Network hopes to provide knowledge and comfort to expectant mothers and remind you that we are here for you as you prepare to welcome your baby into the world!
Gabriel Network has teamed up with the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists to answer questions many expectant mothers are now wondering as they journey through pregnancy and welcome their beautiful babies amidst a pandemic. AAPLOG is the largest non-sectarian pro-life physician organization in the world and exists to encourage and equip its members and other concerned medical professionals to provide an evidenced-based defense of both the mother and her unborn child.
How does COVID-19 Affect Pregnant Women?
While pregnancy is a condition that suppresses a woman’s immune system, this does not appear to increase pregnant women’s chances of contracting Covid-19 or of having more severe disease. Risk factors for more severe disease are the same for pregnant women as for non-pregnant women – obesity, diabetes, pre-existing heart or lung disease. Pregnant women appear to be at the same risk as the general population for contracting Covid-19.
How can COVID-19 affect a fetus?
Thus far, there is no evidence of vertical transmission of Covid-19, which means a pregnant mother infected with Coronavirus does not pass it to the fetus. Testing has been done on amniotic fluid as well as placentas and there has been no evidence that the virus can cross the placenta to infect the fetus. There has been no documented increase of birth defects.
How will COVID-19 affect prenatal and postpartum visits?
You should still have your prenatal and postpartum visits – these are extremely important for your health during your pregnancy as well as the health of your baby. Many OB/GYN offices have switched to telehealth visits during the pandemic. These are mostly used in the first and second trimester, as well as the early third trimester. There will still be some visits which have to be done in person, like your visit for your anatomy ultrasound. Your physician’s office should have a protocol for this which they can give you. The most important thing is that you continue to have your visits and not skip them during this time. As states begin to reopen, your physician’s office should communicate with you about when they will switch back to more in-person visits. Be aware that many offices will require you to wear a mask when you come for your visit and may continue to limit visitors at appointments as well.
What questions should I be asking my doctor during our telehealth and prenatal visits specifically related to COVID-19?
You should be sure you are aware of the symptoms of COVID-19 and who you should call if you have these symptoms in order to be tested. Ask about the visitor policy at your hospital for when you are in labor. You should also ask about your hospital’s policy for newborns of women who have active COVID-19 infection.
How can I stay physically healthy right now?
Two important steps to stay healthy are to eat well and continue to get exercise. There is almost no evidence of outdoor transmission of the virus, so as the weather continues to warm up going outside for exercise (walks, running if you previously ran, etc) is a great way to stay healthy and minimize your risk. You should continue to follow the current social distancing guidelines while outside. This is also a great time to try new recipes with healthy foods. In general, follow the guidelines of shopping the perimeter of the grocery store – sticking with fresh fruits and vegetables as well as meats, and avoiding processed foods. Currently, masks are recommended when indoors in public.
Should I make changes to my labor and delivery plans?
You should not fear delivering in a healthcare facility because of the recent pandemic. Hospitals have now had plenty of time to prepare to keep all of their patients as safe as possible and you will likely notice many of these changes. Your physician should inform you of what the current protocol is on your labor and delivery unit. You should also check ahead of time on your hospital’s current visitor policy – most hospitals are allowing only one visitor, and in some places, that visitor is required to stay with you the entire time. This will allow you to plan appropriately prior to going into labor.
What precautions should I take once home with the baby and with potential visitors?
Anytime a baby is born during a time of high infection rates (flu season, for example), it is recommended to limit visitors and to screen your visitors for any symptoms of illness before allowing them to come over. This is no different. You should limit the number of people your newborn is exposed to and be sure they have had no symptoms of COVID-19 (cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fever, loss of smell or taste, body aches, chest pain) for the last 7 days or any known exposures to COVID-19. They should wear a mask while around your newborn and also wash their hands prior to holding or touching your baby.
What should I do if I am pregnant and diagnosed with COVID-19?
If you were not diagnosed through your obstetric provider’s office, you should notify them immediately. This will allow them to notify your labor and delivery unit as well as to inform you how your visits will be modified while you are infected. If you have mild symptoms and do not require hospitalization, it is recommended that you try to get a pulse oximeter (can be ordered online) for home so that you can monitor your oxygen saturations. In pregnancy, your oxygen saturation should be at 95% or higher – if it drops below this, you should contact your physician, as it could be a sign of worsening infection. Monitor your symptoms closely – you should go to your local hospital for difficulty breathing, temperature of 102 F or higher, or chest pain.
What will happen during labor and delivery if I have COVID-19?
Your labor and your delivery should proceed as it would have if you didn’t have Covid-19. Your nurses and physician will wear the appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) and precautions will be taken to avoid exposure of your newborn as much as possible (again, check with your physician – protocols on this vary hospital to hospital). Other than that, though, your labor and delivery will be managed in the same way it is outside of a pandemic. If you are diagnosed with a mild case of COVID-19 in the last month of pregnancy and had previously discussed induction of labor with your physician, this might be postponed until 14 days after your positive test (if you are not having any medical complication) in order to lessen the risk of exposure to your newborn and your healthcare team.
How can I avoid passing COVID-19 to my baby?
If you have Covid-19, you should wear a mask as much as possible when around your newborn and wash your hands before touching the baby. Breastfeeding is still highly encouraged, and in fact will pass on antibodies to the virus once your body starts producing them. If possible, until you have cleared your infection, it is recommended that you use a breast pump to express your breast milk and then have a non-infected family member feed the baby your milk from a bottle. If doing this, you need to make sure you thoroughly clean all components of the pump. At times when you are not wearing a mask, try to have your baby more than 6 feet away from you if possible. This would be a good time to allow your support person to have the job of changing diapers, doing baths, etc.
Whether you are at the early stages of pregnancy, trying to figure out a birth plan, or just delivered your baby, know that you are in our prayers and Gabriel Network is here for you every step of the way. Your baby is a bright light in these difficult times and you are not alone.