Even in the best of times pregnancy can be one of the most stressful periods in a woman’s life, so as COVID-19 sweeps across the planet, it’s no surprise that parents-to-be might find things more overwhelming than ever. However, if you’re currently expecting, there’s no need to panic! We’re here to help. This article will provide information about the implications of COVID-19 and how to ensure you have a happy, healthy pregnancy despite the added challenges.
What Is COVID-19?
COVID-19, commonly known as Coronavirus, originated out of China back in December 2019 and rapidly spread across the globe in the months after. The first case was confirmed in the US on January 20th, 2020, and by April it was detected in every US state.
The disease itself has a high infection rate and is spread via respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks in the close proximity of others. It can also be spread when these droplets settle on surfaces that people come into contact with.
Whilst some individuals are more susceptible to the illness than others, everyone is at risk of contracting the virus, and as of April 2020 cases were still rising by thousands each day, as lives under lockdown become the norm.
Are Pregnant Women More Susceptible To The Virus?
We know that during pregnancy a woman’s immune system naturally suppresses itself to protect the baby and ensure a successful pregnancy. A consequence of this is that pregnant women are more at risk of catching the flu or certain other illnesses. So, what does this mean for pregnant women and their susceptibility to COVID-19?
Coronavirus is still a relatively new and unknown virus, with vast amounts of research and experiments conducted every day. Whilst numerous studies are still ongoing, it has been confirmed there is currently no evidence that pregnant women are at higher risk of severe symptoms than the general population.
An initial study of around 30 pregnant women with COVID-19 showed that they were no more likely to develop a severe illness than anyone else, and indeed they all recovered and went on to have a healthy pregnancy.
Should Pregnant Women Be Self-Isolating Or Social Distancing? What’s The Difference?
Self-isolation involves staying at home when you or members of your household are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 such as a fever or persistent cough. While these symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have contracted the virus, it’s best to assume you are contagious and take the appropriate action.
This is important firstly because if you are ill you should take care to rest and concentrate on your recovery anyway, but secondly, in order to make sure the disease isn’t spread further amongst the wider population. As a pregnant woman, the recommendations around self-isolation are no different to anybody else’s, especially if confirmed cases of COVID-19 are still on the rise.
Social distancing is distinct to self-isolation, as it calls upon avoiding unnecessary contact with others and non-essential trips outside of the home. If you do have to go outside for any reason, be sure to stay at least six feet away from others to minimize the risk of infection.
Pregnant women in general should not feel the need to subject themselves to any more social distancing than others; however, it has been recommended by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) that should you be over 28 weeks pregnant (third trimester), you need to be particularly careful about contact with others, and avoid unnecessary excursions beyond the home.
What Effect Does Coronavirus Have On Pregnant Women?
The effects of coronavirus on pregnant women do not seem to be any different than those of the general population. If you do fall ill with COVID-19 whilst pregnant, it is expected that you would only experience mild to moderate flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, cough, body aches (such as low back pain), and a temporary lost sense of smell and taste.
Of course, it’s not just the health of the mother at stake here, but also her unborn baby. In terms of the risk of passing the virus from mother to unborn child (known as “vertical transmission”), research is still underway, and doctors have left the possibility open.
There have been cases of newborns testing positive for COVID-19, but it is still debated if this was a case of vertical transmission or picked up from a contaminated environment. It will also come as a relief to know that at this time, the RCOG has found no evidence of increased risk of miscarriage in relation to pregnant women testing positive with COVID-19.
How Can You Reduce The Risk Of Infection?
The best way to reduce your risk of infection is through washing your hands both regularly and rigorously. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for twenty seconds, or if you are outside and come into contact with a foreign surface, use antibacterial gel. Additionally, avoid touching your face, especially your mouth and nose, as much as possible.
As mentioned before, in addition to these hygiene practices, social distancing and self-isolation are also key in the fight against COVID-19, so be sure to stay at home as much as possible, or if you have to go outside, at least six feet away from others.
One should not underestimate the importance of a healthy diet plan either, as a nutritious diet boosts the immune system and helps fight infection.
Research on the effects of pregnancy and COVID-19 is ongoing but current findings reassuringly seem to indicate no greatly enhanced risk to mothers-to-be. Nonetheless, it’s important to make sure you mitigate the risk of exposure as much as possible to ensure a happy, healthy pregnancy for you and your baby.