How COVID-19 Affects Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women

by Christa Brown BSN, RN, LAS

Heartbeat International

The information provided is for general education. If a client has a specific question about her health or the health of her child, she should consult with her own physician.

coronavirus

Are pregnant women more vulnerable to COVID-19? The United Nations Population Fund states that, to date, there is no scientific evidence about the increased susceptibility of pregnant women to COVID-19. They went on to state, however, that “pregnancy brings physical changes that might make some pregnant women more susceptible to viral respiratory infections. Pregnant women with respiratory illnesses must be treated with the utmost priority due to increased risk of adverse outcomes.” If a woman suspects she has symptoms of COVID-19, she should contact her provider.washhands

Should pregnant women take different or additional precautions than the general population? The United Nations Population Fund recommends pregnant women take the same preventive actions to avoid infection recommended for all adults. This includes avoiding close contact with anyone who is coughing and sneezing, washing hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub, covering mouth and nose with a tissue or elbow when coughing and sneezing, and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Recommended actions are available on theWHO website.

Can women transmit the virus to their preborn babies? Transmission between mom and preborn baby has not been shown to date. One recent study with a small sample size documented pregnant woman diagnosed with COVID-19 found no evidence for vertical transmission in late pregnancy.[3]

Are pregnant women with COVID-19 at increased risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes? The Centers for Disease and Prevention states there is no increase of adverse pregnancy outcomes in pregnant women with COVID-19. However, pregnancy loss, including miscarriage and stillbirth, has been observed in cases of infection with other related coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV during pregnancy. As always, high fevers during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the risk of certain birth defects. If a woman has symptoms of COVID-19, she should contact her physician for care.COVID

What action should a pregnant or breastfeeding woman take if she suspects she has become infected with COVID-19?

The World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that those with symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath stay home and call a healthcare provider for advice. Also, they recommend those who have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19 contact their medical providers for recommendations. It’s important that patients call in advance before going to a doctor’s office or emergency room to tell them about any recent travel and symptoms. This will allow the health care provider to direct patients to the right health facility to prevent the spread of this virus and other infections within clinics and hospitals.[3]

[1] Clinical characteristics and intrauterine vertical transmission potential of COVID-19 infection in nine pregnant women: a retrospective review of medical records. Huijun Chen, PhD, Juanjuan Guo, MS, Chen Wang, PhD,  Fan Luo, PhD, Xuechen Yu, MD, Prof Wei Zhang, PhD. VOLUME 395, ISSUE 10226, P809-815, Published: February 12, 2020D

[2] Clinical characteristics and intrauterine vertical transmission potential of COVID-19 infection in nine pregnant women: a retrospective review of medical records. Huijun Chen, PhD, Juanjuan Guo, MS, Chen Wang, PhD,  Fan Luo, PhD, Xuechen Yu, MD, Prof Wei Zhang, PhD. VOLUME 395, ISSUE 10226, P809-815, Published: February 12, 2020D

[3] Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). CDC Web Site: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/share-facts.html. Published March 6, 2020. Retrieved March 8, 2020.