Each day we are learning more about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and the threat it may pose to different segments of our population. Our clinical leaders and hospital partners across the country are actively working to put measures in place to protect pregnant mothers and their newborn infants. So how does this disease affect our patients and their families? Here’s what we know so far.
Pregnant women and COVID-19
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we do not currently know if pregnant women are at a greater risk of getting sick from COVID-19 than the rest of the public, or whether they are more likely to have serious illness and complications as a result. At this stage, both the CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have noted that more data is needed in order to make those determinations.
Women who are pregnant experience changes in their bodies that put their immune system in a state of flux, which places them at a higher risk of developing severe infections from viruses in the same family as COVID-19 and other respiratory infections. For this reason, ACOG have stated that pregnant women should be considered an at-risk population for COVID-19. If you are pregnant, it is important that you protect yourself and follow the CDC’s guidelines on prevention.
Can I give my child COVID-19?
“There is currently no definitive evidence that the virus can be passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy,” reports Dr. Constance Andrejko, Vice President of Medical Affairs at Onsite Neonatal Partners. The virus has not been found in samples of amniotic fluid or breastmilk taken from women with the disease. However, there have been some reported cases of a newborn testing positive for COVID-19, though it is unknown whether the virus was passed before, during, or after the delivery. Our physicians and providers are instituting procedures to help decrease the chance of mother passing the virus to her newborn.
Safety precautions after birth and during breastfeeding
The virus is thought to be spread from person-to-person when individuals are in close contact (within 6 feet), which poses some issues for kangaroo care and traditional breastfeeding. If you have a confirmed case of the virus, or are a person-under-investigation (PUI), it is important to take proper precautions with your baby in order to minimize their exposure.
“Breastfeeding is incredibly valuable and provides protection for newborns against many illnesses,” says Dr. Andrejko. Onsite is passionate about the benefits of breastfeeding, especially to those at risk of infection. “However, to minimize your baby’s risk, you will likely be separated from your baby after birth. If that is the case, you can express your breastmilk after birth, and a healthy caregiver can feed your baby your breastmilk.” Make sure that you wash your hands well before expressing your milk and clean your equipment thoroughly. We recommend that you speak to your doctor and follow the CDC’s guidance in regards to being in contact with your baby.
As information evolves, we will continue releasing updates so that you and your loved ones can be informed and prepared. We encourage you to visit the CDC website to stay up to date on new findings and visit your birthing center’s website to review the steps they are taking for your safety. As always, our clinical teams are here to support you and optimize the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of your family.