For many people, pregnancy, and being the parent of a newborn, already causes a lot of anxiety. It is only natural to worry about the health of the pregnancy, how the delivery will go, and if your baby will be born healthy. And after the baby is born, it is natural to worry that your baby could become sick or get injured when they are at such a vulnerable age. Now with the new coronavirus causing such chaos in our lives, it is understandable that expecting parents and the parents of newborns would be feeling more anxious than ever. There is still a lot we don't know about this virus, but information is beginning to emerge and we wish to keep you all updated on what we do and do not know.
With regards to how this new coronavirus (also known as covid 19) can affect pregnant women, this is what we know. When a woman is pregnant her immune system changes, making her somewhat immunocompromised. This makes her more vulnerable to some some respiratory infections such as the flu for example. So far, the data that is available regarding covid 19 does not show that pregnant women, who become infected, are at more risk for severe disease than the general public. However, we do know, that the flu, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (middle eastern respiratory syndrome) do sometimes affect pregnant women more severely. SARS and MERS are also coronaviruses. We would therefore urge pregnant women to be especially careful during this pandemic.
It is likely that many expecting parents worry that if the mother does become infected with covid 19, can she then infect her baby. Thus far, there is no evidence to suggest that an infected woman is more likely to have a miscarriage or to pass the virus to the fetus. Current evidence shows that the coronavirus has not been found in either the amniotic fluid, or the placenta of infected women. This is rather reassuring.
So what if if mom has covid 19 when the baby is born, or soon after? According to the CDC, recent studies have shown that the virus has not been found in breastmilk. It should therefore be safe for a positive mom, without symptoms, to feed her baby with the usual good hygiene of good hand washing. We would also suggest she wear a mask. If mom does have more symptoms such as a lot of coughing, then it might be better for her to pump the milk and have another uninfected person feed the baby with a bottle.
The good news is that childhood infection with covid 19 seems to be much less common than infections in adults. When children do become infected they typically have a very mild illness. The bad news is a small percentage of children can become severely ill. Children under the age of 5 are more vulnerable to more severe infection, and infants under 12 months of age are at highest risk of severe infection. Therefore any infected person caring for a newborn or young child should take the strongest precautions, with frequent hand washing and wearing a mask.
With regard to the delivery during these very difficult times, different hospitals have implemented different policies. All hospitals are likely limiting hospital visitation at this point. But many hospitals may only allow a single support person to be with the mother during delivery. Some hospitals do not want anyone but the mother herself present. However some hospitals are making it possible for doulas or other support people to skype or facetime in during the delivery. We would suggest that expecting parents check in at the hospital where they will be delivering, to find out the most recent policy. This way you are prepared and can plan ahead.
We know how hard this time is for our parents and patients. We will be here for you throughout this difficult period, and we will do our utmost to keep our office as safe as we can. As we learn more information about covid 19, we will make it available on our website. Be safe.