Pregnancy can be an incredibly exciting time in a person’s life. However as the confirmed number of global COVID-19 infections continue to increase by over 200,000 per day, it is only natural that this can also bring feelings of apprehension and anxiety to those that are expecting.
You may have concerns around whether COVID-19 will affect you or your baby and how it will influence all aspects of your pregnancy, including antenatal checks up and the delivery itself.
This blog looks at some of those concerns and ways to help alleviate your anxiety.
It’s likely that when you discovered you were pregnant you started putting plans in place for parenthood, including ensuring a sufficient support network is place. For example you will likely have considered who will look after any other children when you go into labour, and who is your contact point in an emergency in case your partner is not reachable?
In addition to these important questions, you should also put plans in place to help you manage should you or someone you live with contract COVID-19. For example, if you have to self-quarantine while pregnant or with a newborn, do you have sufficient supplies of any medication and who will do your groceries for you?
You can read our blogs on how to self-quarantine effectively and prepare your household for COVID-19 for more information. Being prepared can help to reduce your stress levels and mean you are well placed should the worst happen.
Mitigate Risks of Infection
Naturally pregnant women should take extra care to avoid contracting COVID-19. However there is nothing specific you need to do differently to mitigate the risk of the virus while pregnant. All the same rules still apply including:
- Practicing good personal hygiene, including regular handwashing, avoiding touching your face and sneezing into a tissue or elbow.
- Maintaining social distancing and avoiding contact with others as much as possible, in line with local public health advice. If you do need to go out, try to avoid crowded public places, wear a mask, and maintain at least 1 metre social distancing from others as recommended by the World Health Organization.
- Do not meet or socialise with anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 or has been diagnosed with the virus. If a member of your household develops symptoms you should follow local public health advice, and where possible see if it is possible for them to self-quarantine elsewhere to limit your chance of infection. If you do have to quarantine together at home, you should isolate from them as much as possible, including sleeping in separate rooms and avoid sharing a bathroom.
If you have an underlying health condition that puts you in a vulnerable category, your midwife or doctor might advise you of additional specific measures to reduce your risk of getting COVID-19. Most importantly you must still attend all your scheduled antenatal appointments during the pandemic, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
Be Aware of Symptoms
Everyone, including pregnant women, should be aware of the most common COVID-19 symptoms and familiarise themselves with guidance from local public health authorities on what to do if you are symptomatic. There is a full list of symptoms on the World Health Organization website here.
If you experience any COVID-19 symptoms while pregnant you should adhere to any self-quarantine requirements in your local area. You should also seek immediate medical advice, including contacting your midwife or maternity care doctor. They will be best placed to advise you on next steps – remember that if you are symptomatic, it is recommended that your call your medical provider first rather than visiting the clinic in person.
As with any pregnancy-related matter, it is always best to err on the side of caution and seek medical advice if you feel unwell.
Attend Your Antenatal Appointments
Maternity appointments such as ultrasound scans will still need to take place during the pandemic and it is critical you do not avoid or miss these important check-ups out of concern for COVID-19.
However, there might be some changes to the way your antenatal care is delivered during this time depending on the situation in your local community. Some of the changes could include:
- Remote telemedicine consultations with a midwife of even virtual prenatal classes;
- Being asked to attend in-person appointments, such as scans, alone and without your birth partner;
- Having to wear a mask, gown, or other elements of personal protective equipment (PPE) during in-person appointments, and potentially even while in labour; and
- Appointments being cancelled or rescheduled at short notice.
These restriction may add to any apprehension you're already feeling relating to COVID-19 and your pregnancy. Just remember that such measures are in place to protect both you and your baby and help limit the spread of the virus.
Plan For the Birth
Depending on the COVID-19 situation in your local area there may also be restrictions applied to your labour and delivery.
For example in some countries your birth partner may not be allowed in the delivery room or there may be additional limitations on visiting hours and how long they can stay after the birth. You may also be required to have a COVID-19 test before being able to deliver at your preferred hospital.
If you have COVID-19 at the time of delivery additional restrictions may be in place, such as being required to wear a mask and encouraged to wash your hands before you hold your baby. It’s also worth noting that there is no clear evidence to suggest that an infected mother can pass COVID-19 on to their child through breast milk, although you may be encouraged to take other precautions to prevent the spread if you are breastfeeding.
Check with the hospital where you plan to give birth on the specific procedures in place so you are well prepared and know what to expect. Likewise check with your midwife on the situation if you are a planning a home birth.
Does Pregnancy Make You a Higher COVID-19 Risk?
Encouragingly as of August 2020, there is no evidence that:
- Being pregnant increases your risk of serious illness due to COVID-19;
- Getting COVID-19 will cause or increase your risk of miscarriage or stillbirth; or
- That experiencing symptoms or testing positive for COVID-19 will affect your baby’s development.
However, you may be at higher risk of pregnancy complications if you do fall seriously ill with COVID-19. We also know that influenza and similar viruses pose an increased risk to some pregnant women, so it is best to take precautions.
Most countries consider pregnancy as putting you at moderate risk in the context of COVID-19. This reflects the potential for complications while acknowledging we still have only limited knowledge about COVID-19 and pregnancy.
COVID-19 and Your Pregnancy
In summary, unless you have a pre-existing condition that puts you at higher risk from COVID-19 or that may complicate your pregnancy, you don’t need to do much differently to manage your risk of contracting the virus. As with everyone else you should follow local guidelines, practice good personal hygiene and maintain social distancing.
To help manage any anxiety you should also ensure you plan ahead, both in terms of the birth itself as well what to do should you become symptomatic and need to self-quarantine while pregnant. You should also familiarise yourself with any public health measures that may impact the way you receive antenatal care or deliver your baby. As long as you take the necessary precautions and plan ahead, you should find it easier to relax and enjoy your pregnancy, and look forward to your new arrival.