Concerns surrounding coronavirus are running rampant. So what about pregnancy and coronavirus risk? Does it impact both mom and baby?
Firm numbers are hard to come by because there have been very few pregnant women who have gotten the disease. As of March 9, there had not yet been any reported cases of COVID-19 in pregnant women in the United States. China, the country with the largest number of cases, has released information about nine pregnant women who tested positive for the disease. There’s been one baby born with COVID-19 in China, as well.
According to the CDC…
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the go-to for the most current information, and their website states that “Pregnant women experience immunologic and physiologic changes which might make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19. Pregnant women also might be at risk for severe illness, morbidity, or mortality compared to the general population, as observed in cases of other related coronavirus infections.”
Based on the very limited data from the nine Chinese women, there does not appear to a risk of what is referred to as vertical transmission, which is when a disease is passed from mother to her fetus. While this is reassuring to women in the later stages of pregnancy, that doesn’t mean there’s no risk to a fetus if a pregnant woman gets COVID-19. High fevers during the first trimester can result in certain birth defects. This makes it especially prudent for women in this stage of pregnancy to use caution.
Dr. Burton Rochelson, Chief of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Northwell Health System and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell tells Parentology he counsels his pregnant patients to call if they’re experiencing symptoms of the disease such as a fever, cough, and shortness of breath, or if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
“It is not recommended that they go to an emergency room to be tested,” Rochelson says. “A woman should call her doctor. Currently, if a person presents with a fever and cough, they are first being tested for flu to rule that out. If they test negative for influenza, then they are being tested for COVID-19.”
Rochelson emphasizes it’s difficult to give precise answers because this is a continually evolving situation. “The more we learn, the less fear there should be.”
It’s wise to keep in mind are that 80% of cases of coronavirus will result in only mild symptoms. Pregnant women should avoid people who are ill, crowded places, and, of course, observe the standard recommendation of good hand washing. While hand sanitizer has been flying off the shelf, soap and water are what is recommended as a first choice. Hand sanitizer should be used if no soap and water are available.
Pregnancy and Coronavirus Risk: Sources
Dr. Burton Rochelson Chief of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Northwell Health System and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell
CDC: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers: Coronavirus and Pregnancy
The Lancet: Clinical Characteristics and intrauterine vertical transmission potential of COVID-19 infection in nine pregnant women