Pregnant during COVID-19: Is my baby at risk?
Celebrated OBGYN Dr Kiran Coelho is here to calm your nerves
The C-word has taken over everyone’s timelines and dinner table conversations. And if you’re pregnant, you may be bubbling with queries about whether coronavirus poses a threat to you and your baby.
The evolving nature of the disease leaves us with a lot of uncertainty. Here are some answers to queries on being pregnant during COVID-19.
Does being pregnant put me at higher risk for COVID-19?
Pregnant women have altered immune systems and the impact of coronavirus on them is still evolving.
Most pregnant women will experience only mild or moderate flu-like symptoms — cough, fever, shortness of breath, headache and loss of sense of smell.
More severe symptoms such as pneumonia are likely to be more common in older pregnant women, or those with weakened immune systems or life-long health ailments like high blood pressure, diabetes, other lung or heart disease.
At the moment, it doesn’t seem as if pregnant women are more likely to be seriously unwell as compared to other healthy adults.
But you should take every precaution to protect yourself, and report any possible symptoms to your doctor immediately.
How can I protect myself against COVID-19?
Pregnant women should follow the same rules as everyone else.
• Stay at home as much as possible unless there is a medical emergency. Keep in touch with your doctor over the phone or online.
• Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds or use a hand sanitiser.
• Wear a mask and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with hands.
• Follow aggressive social distancing. Forget one arm-distance — keep at least 6 feet away from others when you’re out in public.
• Practice respiratory hygiene by covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of the used tissue immediately.
Should pregnant women be tested for COVID-19?
The government’s guidelines recommend that pregnant women living in cluster/containment areas or in large migration gatherings in hotspot districts — especially if they’re in labour or likely to deliver in the next five days — should be tested even if they’re asymptomatic.
They should be tested in the same centre where they’re admitted for delivery.
If I’m infected, will my baby catch it?
Yes, it’s possible for a woman to transmit the infection to her baby during pregnancy or birth. But it’s important to know that in all reported cases, the baby was well.
While there is no evidence of COVID-19 causing foetal abnormalities, a recent study of 441 women across 16 countries shows that the premature birth rate (26%) is doubled.
Can a baby be infected from breast milk?
While the virus has not been found in breast milk, the baby could get infected through contact with a coronavirus-positive caregiver while feeding.
Since breast milk is the best source of nutrition and boosts immunity in infants, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
What about visiting my doctors during the lockdown?
Maternity hospitals and nursing homes are doing everything they can to minimise the spread of coronavirus infection to women and their babies.
Don’t be scared to visit a hospital if you or your baby need care.
For example, for a pregnant woman who does not have high risk factors, a sonography is advised at 12-13 weeks and at 18-22 weeks. Routine antenatal visits — including vaccinations and blood tests — can be timed with these sonographies.
Do I need to follow a specific diet?
Ignore the University of Whatsapp — there’s no specific diet that can help you beat COVID-19.
Continue with your well-balanced diet, and feast on citrus fruits (lemon, oranges), vegetables like broccoli, spinach, ginger, garlic, turmeric, and healthy protein.
You could supplement with vitamins and micronutrients after consulting your doctor.
What’s the treatment for COVID-19 infection?
For mild infections, patients can self-isolate at home until they get better and your doctor tells you it’s safe to go back to your normal activities.
If your condition worsens and you have difficulty breathing, you might need to stay in the hospital — possibly in the intensive care unit and most likely in an “isolation” room.
You may need oxygen support to help you breathe easily and in the worst case, you may be put on a ventilator.
Will my delivery be affected by the coronavirus pandemic?
The World Health Organisation [WHO] advises caesarean sections only when medically justified. You should be able to choose your preferred mode of birth, keeping in mind your doctor’s advice.
Can I touch and hold my newborn baby if I have COVID-19?
Yes, close contact with the mother and early breastfeeding helps a baby to thrive. Remember to wash your hands before and after touching your baby, and keep all surfaces clean.