This is a weird and stressful time for all of us. A global pandemic and quarantine measures isn’t exactly something that any of us expected to face in our lifetimes. And for pregnant women, this can be an even more anxiety-inducing time, with constant updates on the coronavirus outbreak flooding our social media feeds and dominating the news.
So how does coronavirus affect pregnant women? Are they and their baby at a greater risk from Covid-19? And what should they do to stay safe?
If you’re pregnant, you probably have a million questions about coronavirus. With that in mind, we’ve covered what expecting mums need to know about coronavirus in the post below. Here’s what you need to know:
Does being pregnant make you more likely to catch coronavirus?
Pregnancy does weaken the immune system — pregnant women are often particularly susceptible to respiratory infections — but it doesn’t appear to make women more susceptible to catching coronavirus.
This is based on the evidence we have so far, which indicates that pregnant women are no more likely to catch coronavirus than the general population.
How does coronavirus affect pregnant women?
Generally speaking, pregnant women who catch the coronavirus infection will experience mild or moderate cold and flu-like symptoms.
At the moment, there isn’t any evidence to suggest that pregnant women who contract coronavirus are at a higher risk of serious complications than any other healthy adults. This means that it isn’t more dangerous if you get coronavirus while pregnant.
Older people, people with weakened immune systems and those with pre-existing medical conditions — such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease — appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill from the virus.
Can coronavirus affect unborn babies?
Because coronavirus is a very new virus, we don’t know that much about it and we’re learning more each day.
This means that there isn’t currently that much information about the effect that coronavirus will have on unborn babies — and even if it can be passed onto the baby in the womb.
However, it is thought that transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy or birth (vertical transmission) of coronavirus is probable.
Despite this likelihood, there isn’t any evidence that suggests the virus will cause any harm to your baby. This includes increased chance of miscarriage, birth defects and problems with the baby’s health.
UK maternity units are observing women who develop COVID-19 during pregnancy and their newborn babies carefully, and the official information is being regularly updated as more is found out.
Why are pregnant women classed as a vulnerable group?
Pregnant women are currently classed as a vulnerable group by the UK Chief Medical Officer.
If you are pregnant and reading the above answers about coronavirus, you’re probably wondering why pregnant women are classed as a vulnerable group if it doesn’t seem that pregnant women are more likely to contract coronavirus or become seriously ill compared to the general population.
The main reason is literally caution. Because so little is known about this brand new virus at the moment, it is considered best to take any precautions we can — at least until we know more about how coronavirus could impact mother and unborn baby.
Coupled with the facts that we do have — that pregnancy may change how your body handles viral infections and that some infections are worse in pregnant women — it makes sense to be as safe as possible.
What can you do to keep yourself and your baby safe?
Pregnant women have been advised by the government to reduce social contact and take measures to socially distance for the safety of themselves and their babies.
If you’re pregnant, there are a few things you can do (and that your partner or other members of your household can do to stay safe:
- Wash your hands regularly — with hot water, soap and for at least 20 seconds (and as soon as you get home if you’ve been out)
- Stay at home as much as you can (only go outside for food, health reasons or work if totally necessary)
- Avoid non-essential use of public transport when possible
- Work from home where possible
- If you have to go out, stay at least two metres (six feet) away from other people at all times
- Use the phone or online services to contact your GP or an online pharmacy if you need prescription medication to be delivered
- Avoid any gatherings in public spaces (at this point, pubs, restaurants, leisure centres and similar venues are currently shut to prevent further spread of the virus)
- Avoid any gatherings with friends and family — stick to keeping in touch on your phone, social media, or video call apps.
- Remember to use tissues when you or anyone in your household coughs or sneezes — throwing the tissue away immediately and washing your hands after
These are some of the measures you can follow to minimise your risk of catching coronavirus and stay as safe as possible.
What should you do if you think you may have coronavirus?
If you’re pregnant and you are displaying coronavirus symptoms (a high temperature or a new, persistent dry cough) or you think you have be exposed to coronavirus there are are a few things you should do:
- Stay at home and self-isolate for seven days
- Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital
- Contact your maternity unit to let them know that you have symptoms of coronavirus (especially if you have any appointments in the next seven days)
If your condition gets worse, doesn’t improve after seven days, or you feel like you cannot cope with your symptoms at home and need medical help, then you should call NHS 111 or use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service.
If you’re worried about your wellbeing or that of your baby, then speak to your midwife or maternity team for further advice.
How does all of this affect childbirth?
If you’re pregnant and due to give birth in the coming months, then one of the big questions you’ll have about coronavirus is how it will impact your birth.
In the NHS, maternity wards are working hard to keep expecting mums and babies as safe as possible and provide a high level of care for all.
This means that your birth partner can be present with you during labour and birth to support and help you.
However, if your birth partner is showing any coronavirus symptoms, they will not be allowed to go into the maternity suite. This is to safeguard the health of the maternity staff supporting you as well as protect other women on the ward and to reduce chances of coronavirus spreading around maternity wards.
If it is the case that your chosen birth partner is unwell or showing symptoms of coronavirus at the time of your labour, then you can choose another birth partner to attend. It is best to listen to the advice and guidance of your maternity team if they are explaining any changes to you at this time. This guidance is in place to protect everyone: you, your baby, other pregnant women and babies, healthcare staff, and birth partners themselves.
If you’re concerned about any of this, then it is a good idea to speak to your midwife or maternity team. They will be able to provide further advice.
If you’re pregnant, then these are the main things that you need to know. Hopefully, we’ve managed to answer some of your questions and concerns about coronavirus. If you have anything else that you want to know about regarding pregnancy and COVID-19, then speak to your doctor, midwife or maternity team for further guidance.