Pregnancy is one of the most beautiful and rewarding journeys that a woman (and her partner) will experience. However, due to COVID-19, many pregnant couples have mixed emotions as they rapidly approach their due dates.
As reported by Unicef, in the United States alone, there will be over 3.3 million babies born between March 11 and December 16, 2020. In response to the current global pandemic, many pregnant women are anxious about giving birth in hospitals.
COVID-19 and Pregnancy — What You Need to Know
For those expecting a new baby during the current pandemic, it is normal to feel some level of anxiety. After all, there is still so much that researchers do not know about the coronavirus. Although more research needs to be conducted as researchers continue to collect and analyze emerging evidence, here is what is currently understood.
COVID-19 appears to impact individuals differently. For example, those who have heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes tend to become sicker. However, at this time, it does not appear that pregnant without any underlying health issues will have more serious complications if they become infected. There is also no evidence to suggest an increased risk of miscarriage.
Currently, researchers do not have any reason to believe that COVID-19 can be transmitted to an unborn baby. After birth, however, transmission is possible. Early data shows that infants are actually less likely to show severe symptoms — but more research is needed. This means that pregnant women and new moms should take the same precautions as everyone else. Practice social distancing and frequent hand washing. If you are out in public, wear a mask.
While it is important to practice social distancing regardless of where you are in your pregnancy, based on a study of 427 pregnant women, the majority of women who became severely ill were in their third trimester. Take extra precautions from 28 weeks and beyond.
Some research suggests that pregnant women who get COVID-19 may have a higher risk for select complications, such as preterm birth. However, the data is limited and researchers are unsure of the virus is the direct cause.
At this time, there is no evidence of the virus in breast milk.
Healthy Delivery Tips — How to Better Prepare During the 2020 Global Pandemic
Prior to your delivery, as stated by the Cleveland Clinic, if possible, participate in digital prenatal visits. This is something that you can discuss directly with your doctor. For appointments that you do need to attend in-person, ask your doctor if you can video chat with your partner throughout, since many are no longer allowed to attend regular appointments.
In terms of delivery, your geographical location will dictate what regulations are currently in place. Across the city of Cleveland, for instance, at Cleveland Clinic Fairview and Hillcrest Hospitals, MetroHealth Medical Center, University Hospitals, Cleveland, and Cleveland Clinic Akron General, one support person is allowed to be present for labor and delivery. Of course, if your partner has COVID-19 or symptoms associated with the virus, they will not be permitted. This is why you should plan for a potential backup support person.
Read more: What to do if your child has a birth injury?
The following tips will help you better prepare in order to gain peace-of-mind while protecting you and your newborn baby:
- Follow the same birthing steps as you would pre-COVID-19 in regards to educating yourself, seeking beneficial resources (i.e. online prenatal classes), creating a birth plan, etc. However, be mindful of new considerations and coronavirus procedures at your local hospital. For example, Cleveland’s University Hospitals have implemented procedures to care for sick pregnant women and their newborns during and after childbirth. Prior to giving birth, be sure to ask questions so that you are better prepared.
- If you plan to have a home birth, it is imperative that you understand the risks involved. Although many women want to avoid hospitals, perinatal deaths are twice as high for home births in comparison to hospital births. Once again, this is why you need a detailed birth plan. In Ohio, for example, home birth attendants and midwives are unregulated. This is why it is critical that you seek a certified nurse-midwife who has a general agreement with a healthcare provider.
- Know the facts in your area. It is clear that in some regions the COVID-19 outbreak is much more severe than others, and each hospital will have its own protocols in place. For example, at Cleveland Clinic, some of the measures being taken include social distancing for patients and visitors, masks for patients, virtual visits for prenatal care, and rapid testing for women with symptoms who are in labor. Once mother and baby are stable, rapid discharge is encouraged to keep both mom and baby safe.
- If it is confirmed that you have COVID-19, you and your baby should be temporarily separated to lower the risk of infection. Detailed guidelines provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics can be found here.
Although this is a frightening time, you can take proactive action. Understand the risks involved so that you can prepare the best possible birth plan — and speak to your doctor about current protocols within your area. If at any point in time you require legal advice, please do not hesitate to contact us. We’re here for you during these uncertain times.