It is a scary time in America due to the highly infectious pandemic coronavirus (COVID-19), especially if you are pregnant or ready to give birth. Pregnancy and childbirth are perhaps the most meaningful of all human events in the life cycle. As COVID-19 begins to affect communities across the world, an expectant mother will have heightened concerns around keeping herself and her baby safe while having the birthing experience she desires.
Mothers-to-be are asking important questions like, “What is my risk of getting COVID-19?” and “If I do become infected how will it affect my pregnancy, the birth, and my baby?”
Currently, we don’t know for certain if pregnant women have a greater chance of getting COVID-19 than the general public, nor if they are more likely to be very sick if they do get the virus.
There is not enough evidence to absolutely determine if the virus can pass from mother to baby during pregnancy or delivery, or what potential effects the virus might have on the baby. We do know that pregnant women should take the same precautions as everyone else to protect themselves from exposure to the virus. If a pregnant woman has respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, sneezing, or difficulty breathing she should seek medical care immediately.
At this time there are limited studies and scientific data on how COVID-19 affects pregnancy, maternal, and newborn populations. To date, China has given us two case series (a type of medical research study that tracks subjects with a known exposure) consisting of 18 pregnancies testing COVID-19 positive.
In this study, patients were COVID-19-infected in their third trimester and their clinical symptoms were similar to non-pregnant adults. It is important to note that 16 out of 18 deliveries were by cesarean section, and there was no evidence of intrauterine transmission.
Now, here is the good news: The China studies show us that 100% of the moms have fully recovered from COVID-19 with no infections detected in the newborns. Also, according to the CDC, the virus has not been found in amniotic fluid or breast milk. Yet, it must be noted that due to the limited perinatal studies, more scientific data is needed to conclusively rule out any present or future transmission of the COVID-19 from mother to baby.
Most expectant mothers have a plan in place for their delivery. What can they expect now with all of this upheaval in the healthcare system?
Many hospitals are limiting the number of visitors and support persons allowed in the labor and delivery room and on the mother/baby unit. This may be very different from the birth plan the pregnant woman had for her labor and delivery of baby. The loss of this birth plan can trigger feelings of anxiety, sadness or anger due to the uncertainty of the situation.
Here are a few things to keep in mind that may help ease the anxiety if you are an expectant mom:
- The first priority of the health-care providers is your health and the health of your baby.
- You will have ongoing support from a labor nurse.
- Recognize this may not be the labor and birth you expected or planned for, but it will be memorable in so many ways.
- Make arrangements to connect with family and support persons, such as FaceTime, Zoom, Skype or WhatsApp. You may want to practice using these platforms with your family and/or friends in advance of your anticipated delivery.
- After delivery mothers and babies should be supported to remain together and practice rooming-in, an evidence-based practice that promotes keeping healthy newborns and their mothers together in post-labor recovery rooms.
During pregnancy many women plan to breastfeed their baby. We know that breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most infants; yet, because there is so much about COVID-19 we don’t know, a mother’s decision about how to start or continue breastfeeding her baby should be determined by the mother in collaboration with her family and health-care providers.
Most importantly, for all the expectant mothers out there … you got this! There are so many questions, and we want you to know that we have a team of nurses at Casa de los Niños here to help!
Please visit our website at Casadelosninos.org for more information about maternal health, and for links to other resources for expectant mothers.
Remember, you have a lot of resources to help make good choices and to do what is best to keep yourself and your baby safe!
Nancy Mellberg, MSN, RN; and Teresa Wilson, MS, RN work in Nurse-Family Partnership at Casa de los Niños. Learn more at casadelosninos.org
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