Pregnant and worried about coronavirus? Here’s what you need to know.
Source: Live Action
UPDATE 19/03/2020: While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization have not made changes to their assessment of the risk of COVID-19 to pregnant women, new data from China suggests that children, especially those under the age of five, are more susceptible to serious infection from the virus.
“Pregnant women experience immunologic and physiologic changes which might make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19,” said the CDC. “Pregnant women might also be at risk for severe illness, morbidity, or mortality compared to the general population as observed in cases of other related coronavirus infections…”
Meanwhile, researchers have stated, “To date, there has been no evidence of vertical transmission [infected mother to a preborn child] of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) based on two small clinical series.”
However, newborns are able to contract COVID-19 from their infected mothers – or anyone else caring for them – through droplets. A study of more than 2,000 children with the virus in China has now revealed that babies are especially vulnerable to severe infection.
The study was published in the journal Pediatrics and found that half of the children in the study – who had tested positive for COVID-19 or were suspected to have the virus – had mild symptoms including fever, fatigue, cough, congestion, and possibly nausea or diarrhea. 39 percent of the children were moderately sick with additional symptoms such as pneumonia or lung problems. About four percent experienced no symptoms. However, about six percent of children had very serious illness resulting from the virus, and a 14-year-old boy with confirmed COVID-19 died.
“The main conclusion,” said Dr. Srinivas Murthy, as associate professor of pediatrics at the University of British Columbia, “is that children are infected at rates that may be comparable to adults, with severity that’s much less, but that even within kids, there’s a spectrum of illness and there’s a handful that require more aggressive therapy.”
Dr. Murthy warned that hospitals should be prepared for pediatric patients. additionally, parents with suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 should be separated from their children until they are well.
3/15/2020: Cold and flu season can be stressful enough for pregnant women trying to avoid illness. Now with coronavirus spreading throughout the world, it can be difficult to know how to react and best protect yourself and your baby. Thankfully, data (though limited) shows that pregnant women are not at higher risk from complications of COVID-19 and preborn babies are not contracting COVID-19 from their mothers. But it is still wise to do everything in your power to stay healthy.
Are pregnant women at higher risk from COVID-19?
While little is known about the effects of COVID-19 on pregnant women, it is already well understood that other viruses such as influenza (the flu) can cause more serious complications in pregnant women because of changes to their immune systems and a decrease in lung capacity as the baby grows. With that information, pregnant women should take extra precautions to protect themselves from contracting COVID-19 while understanding that the research available shows no increased risk to pregnant women.
NBC News broke down three studies that either showed that pregnant women and their babies were no more at risk for complications than the average person, or the results were inconclusive.
According to the World Health Organization, an analysis of 147 women who either were confirmed to have or suspected of having COVID-19, eight percent had severe disease and one percent were considered critical. That’s equal to about 13 pregnant women out of 147.
Additionally, a report published in The Lancet found that out of nine women who were pregnant and had COVID-19, there was no evidence of the virus being transferred to the baby or through breast milk and the babies had no complications when they were born.
According to NBC, a study in the Translational Pediatrics Journal found that of 10 newborns in China born to mothers with COVID-19, six were premature, six had shortness of breath, two had fevers and abnormal liver function, one had a collapsed lung, and one had an increased heart rate. Nine were tested for COVID-19 and none were positive. Therefore no true conclusion could be drawn.
In other words, pregnant women and their babies remain at relatively low risk from COVID-19 but because not much is truly known, precautions should be taken just in case.
What should pregnant women do to protect themselves and their babies?
Pregnant women who are concerned can take actions such as staying home as much as possible, limiting visits with others, staying away from large events, and washing hands for at least 20 seconds at a time and often throughout the day. Anti-bacterial soap is not necessary, simply use regular soap. If you use hand sanitizer, make sure it has at least 60 percent alcohol. Wearing a mask can increase a healthy person’s chances of getting sick because people are more likely to touch their dirty hands to their faces while wearing a mask. Disinfecting surfaces is also said to be highly effective in killing the virus.
There is a European travel ban in place and the government is advising that no one travel on cruise ships either. You should also reconsider your travel plans, especially if you were planning to visit an area hit hard by COVID-19.