Being pregnant naturally comes with its own amount of nervousness and anxiety, but being pregnant during a pandemic brings additional worries: Am I at risk? Is my baby at risk? How can I protect myself and my baby after birth?
As scientists continue to learn more about the coronavirus – commonly known as COVID-19 – and how it is spread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges pregnant women to take precautions to prevent themselves from getting ill. Pregnancy causes changes within a woman’s body that may increase their risk of contracting certain infections and the CDC notes that women have a greater risk of developing severe illnesses with certain infections, particularly with viral infections such as influenza. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that while the virus is still being studied by health experts across the globe, there is no evidence at this time that pregnant women are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than the general public.
Additionally, The CDC is not aware of COVID-19 causing pregnancy complications or any other issues that may affect the health of your baby after birth. It is also not known at this time if an expectant mother can pass COVID-19 to their fetus or to the baby during birth.
If you are expecting, continue to follow the same prevention guidelines issued for the general public, such as covering your cough, avoiding people who are sick, and washing your hand with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
While it is known that breast milk provides the best nutrition to newborns, as well as protection against certain illnesses, it is not known if the coronavirus can be transmitted to a baby via breast milk. COVID-19 is spread by close personal contact, mostly through respiratory droplets from a cough or sneeze. The CDC reports the virus has not yet been detected in breast milk. Ultimately, the decision to breastfeed is best left to the parents and healthcare providers.
WHO encourages breastfeeding, even if the mom is positive for COVID-19, though necessary precautions need to be taken, such as practicing good respiratory hygiene, wearing a mask, washing your hands before and after touching the baby, and routinely cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. The WHO also encourages skin-to-skin contact with your newborn, again advising you take the necessary precautions, such as washing your hands before touching your baby.
Information for the post was compiled from the CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/pregnancy-breastfeeding.html, and the WHO, https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-on-covid-19-pregnancy-childbirth-and-breastfeeding. Visit their websites for more information and updates as they become available.