This article is intended to shed light on how COVID-19 (Coronavirus) affects pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. The purpose of this article is to raise awareness among pregnant women on how to protect themselves from acquiring the virus for a healthy pregnancy.
This post covers the following topics and answers the following questions:
- Definition of COVID-19
- How Does COVID-19 Spread?
- Signs and Symptoms of COVID-19
- How Does COVID-19 Affect Pregnant Women?
- Can COVID-19 Cross the Placenta and Affect the Unborn Child?
- Can You Breastfeed Your Baby if You Have COVID-19?
- How Are Pregnant Women With COVID-19 Treated?
- Does COVID-19 Affect Labor and Delivery?
The coronavirus disease is categorized as a newly discovered disease. Since the virus also mutates, we may lack information on how it affects us, especially pregnant women. It is important to be updated on the latest news released by reliable sources such as the CDC and WHO.
Definition of COVID-19
COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease 2019) is a highly transmissible viral disease which causes respiratory illness. The coronavirus initially originated in Wuhan City, China, which led to the global pandemic as declared by the World Health Organization in January of 2020.
The spread of the virus is declared a global pandemic and has affected everyone. Countries are in lockdown, there are travel restrictions, people are asked to stay at home, nurses around the world fight to save lives, the whole world is affected. When will it stop?
How Does COVID-19 Spread?
To protect yourself from catching the COVID-19 virus, you should know how it spreads. If you’re aware of how the virus spreads, you’ll take precautions to protect yourself.
COVID-19 spreads when you come in contact with an infected person. It can spread through respiratory droplets from a person’s nose or mouth. This occurs when an infected person sneezes, coughs, speaks, breathes, or even sings. The virus gets into the eyes, nose, or mouth, usually when you are in close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual. It can also spread via indirect contact (for example, when an infected individual touches an object with saliva on their hand, the virus is transmitted to the object, and now it becomes a carrier of the virus).
That is why there are precautions advised by local governments and the health department. Wearing face masks, disinfecting, staying at home, physical distancing at least one meter apart will keep us protected from acquiring the virus.
Signs and Symptoms of COVID-19
The signs and symptoms of COVID-19 appear even after 14 days of exposure to an infected person. That is why there is social isolation of at least 14 days that serve as a period of monitoring for signs and symptoms. It is important to remember that other COVID-19 positive individuals appear asymptomatic (no signs and symptoms of the disease) but are still highly contagious. It is important to remember that each person has a different response to the infection.
COVID-19 is classified as a respiratory illness. However, some patients experienced gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and diarrhea. Then after the GI symptoms, flu-like symptoms appear. In summary, the main signs and symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- Fever or chills
- Difficulty of breathing, shortness of breath, or trouble breathing
- Fatigue or always feeling tired and exhausted
- Flu-like symptoms: Body aches, headache, runny nose
- Sore throat
- Loss of the sense of taste or smell
- GI symptoms: nausea and diarrhea
How Does COVID-19 Affect Pregnant Women?
A pregnant woman is considered as high-risk to COVID-19. During pregnancy, the woman’s body changes, including a weakened immune system, making expectant mothers susceptible to COVID-19. Since coronavirus is a new disease, there is limited information on how it affects pregnant women and their unborn babies.
According to the collected data of the CDC and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, there is an increased risk of preterm birth for pregnant mothers who are positive of COVID-19 especially before the third trimester. Extra precautions are advised to expectant mothers.
Can COVID-19 Cross the Placenta and Affect the Unborn Child?
There is limited data about vertical transmission (mother-to-child transmission through the placenta). However, with the collected data, it seems like the fetus is well-protected, and the COVID-19 virus does not cross the placenta. The placenta has immune response cells that help protect the baby from the coronavirus.
A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health concluded that pregnant mothers in their third trimester who are positive of COVID-19 are unlikely to transmit the disease to their unborn child.
Can You Breastfeed Your Baby if You Have COVID-19?
Coronavirus is not found on a mother’s breast milk. However, COVID-19 can spread through talking, coughing, or sneezing. So if you want to protect your infant and continue breastfeeding, observe some of these precautions, or it best to speak with your doctor.
- Before and after touching your baby, wash your hands.
- Wear a face mask or cover your infant with a cloth while nursing.
- Give pumped milk instead while still following sanitary precautions.
- Wash your breast pump or bottle thoroughly before touching and giving it to the baby.
- If possible, allow someone who is not sick to give your express milk to your baby.
How Are Pregnant Women With COVID-19 Treated?
There is no special type of treatment or different medications for pregnant women positive with COVID-19. For mild cases, hospital admission is rare; instead, you must isolate yourself from others. You will be advised to monitor breathing issues, contraction, bleeding, fetal activity, and leaking of amniotic fluid. If you experience one of these symptoms, call your doctor first before rushing to the hospital so you may know what your next steps are.
Does COVID-19 Affect Labor and Delivery?
There is no known information if COVID-19 can affect labor and delivery. Each situation during labor and delivery is different. It is best to consult with your doctor so that a special birth plan may be formulated.
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