Coronavirus Infection and…

A lot of things can change between the start of a pregnancy and the birth of a baby nine months later. But if you are well into your pregnancy now, you almost certainly didn’t expect one of those changes to be the emergence of a pandemic.

If you’re worried about your health and that of your baby, you are not alone. You would be worried about health risks to your baby in normal times (and these times are most definitely not normal). Because this virus has not been seen in humans before (hence the name “novel coronavirus”), there is a lot that we don’t know, and nobody is immune. That said, there is some reassuring news if you are pregnant.

While no age group is completely unaffected by COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, young, otherwise healthy people and children appear to be less hard-hit than other populations.

You are no doubt already taking recommended steps to avoid infection with the coronavirus: thorough hand-washing for 20 seconds, social distancing, and avoiding unnecessary trips outside the house. To further empower you at this time, here are some concerns we have heard about coronavirus infection and pregnancy, and answers we have gathered from health professionals.

Am I at higher risk of getting sick because I’m pregnant?

In general, the immune system does not respond to illness as quickly during pregnancy, so there is a somewhat increased chance that if you’re exposed to the coronavirus, you will become ill. That’s why it’s especially important to observe social distancing and good hygiene at this time.

If I become infected with the coronavirus, what is the risk to my baby?

We don’t know a lot about this virus yet, but so far, there is no evidence that an infected mother can transmit the virus to her baby during pregnancy, and no evidence that the coronavirus leads to any type of birth defect. However, with other viruses, high fever in the first trimester has been linked with an increased risk of some birth defects.

There have been reports of increased incidence of preterm labor in some women infected with the coronavirus, but it is not clear that the infection is what led to the preterm labor.

I’m generally healthy, and I’ve had an uneventful pregnancy so far. Can I safely skip prenatal visits to avoid the risk of exposure to the virus?

As long as your obstetrician thinks it’s appropriate, you should keep going to your visits. Some doctors are willing to stretch the time between visits for lower-risk patients, or to conduct telehealth visits. If your doctor recommends it, you may want to purchase or rent a blood pressure cuff to monitor your blood pressure at home. You may be able to reduce the frequency of visits, but chances are you will still need to see your doctor.

Do ask your doctors about their office’s procedures for sanitizing and otherwise protecting patients, and take recommended measures to keep yourself safe. As of this writing, the CDC is thinking about recommending that all Americans wear masks when out in public, so consider wearing even a homemade mask to protect yourself and others. Gloves are fine, too, but don’t let wearing masks and gloves make you less diligent about maintaining social distancing, hand washing, and avoiding touching your face.

Should I consider a home birth to avoid exposure to COVID-19 during a hospital stay?

Unless you had been considering a home birth for other reasons, you should probably stay the course, but discuss your concerns in advance with your obstetric team. Remember that there are risks associated with home birth, too. If you are at high risk of maternal mortality, you are probably better off in a hospital.

In general, hospitals are doing everything they can to minimize the risk that mothers and babies will be exposed to the coronavirus. This may include limiting who is allowed to be present with you at the birth, and keeping anyone who is suspected of having COVID-19 separate from other patients.

As long as your birth was uncomplicated, and you yourself are feeling well, you and your baby may be discharged sooner than you would have been under normal circumstances.

Could I pass the coronavirus to my baby through breastfeeding?

At this time, there is no evidence that the coronavirus is present in breastmilk, and breastfeeding offers a whole host of benefits for a baby’s immune system. Unless your doctor recommends against it for some reason, breastfeeding is encouraged.

But just because the coronavirus is not known to be transmitted through breastmilk doesn’t mean it couldn’t be transmitted to your infant in other ways. So, when nursing, if there is any chance you could be infected, consider wearing a mask, and wash your hands well before picking up your baby.

We know that this is a difficult time for everyone, and hope that you are able to enjoy a happy, healthy pregnancy despite concerns about the coronavirus and COVID-19. Remember, it is important to protect your mental health as well as your physical health, so take breaks from social media and the news as needed.

If you have further questions about the risk of infection during pregnancy, or if we can assist you in any way, we invite you to contact our law office to schedule a consultation.