Pregnant during the pandemic? Knowns and unknowns

April 02, 2020 | by Kimberley Darey, M.D.
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

This blog was originally posted in 2020. Some information may be out of date. For the latest updates on vaccines, testing, screening, visitor policy and post-COVID support, visit EEHealth.org/coronavirus.

Coronavirus has turned lives upside down. Earlier in the pandemic, information about COVID-19 was changing by the hour. For pregnant women, this was extremely unsettling.

These are some of the questions you may still have: How worried should I be about getting the virus? Will I have to give birth alone? Will I be exposed to patients with COVID-19 at the hospital where I deliver? 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who are pregnant or recently pregnant are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 when compared to non-pregnant people.

Additionally, having COVID-19 during pregnancy also increases the risk for preterm birth (delivering the baby earlier than 37 weeks) and stillbirth and might increase the risk for other pregnancy complications — in addition to health risks from the virus.

Having certain underlying medical conditions, and other factors, including age, can further increase the risk for developing severe COVID-19 illness during or recently after pregnancy.

The best way for pregnant people to protect themselves from COVID is to get vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future. If you have questions about getting vaccinated, talk with your doctor.

Recent research by the CDC suggests that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 during pregnancy may also help protect babies after they're born.

The study found that babies whose mothers received two shots of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines during pregnancy had a 61% lower risk of being hospitalized with COVID-19 in their first six months of life. This means that mothers who are vaccinated while pregnant can transfer protective antibodies to their unborn fetus. This is important because there's no vaccine authorized yet for babies under 6 months old.

In response to the pandemic, some pregnant women have considered giving birth at home or are asking for early induced labor to avoid being in the hospital during a possible surge of COVID-19 cases. Most experts advise against both.

A planned hospital birth is considered the safest option to deliver your baby. Most hospitals are taking precautions to ensure that pregnant women aren’t exposed to ill patients and visitors, including modifications in caring for pregnant women suspected of having COVID-19.

To protect patients and the community, Edward-Elmhurst Health has updated our visitor policy. See the latest updates to our visitor policy.

In addition to vaccination, what are some other ways pregnant people can protect themselves and their babies from COVID-19? Take these precautions:

  • Clean your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose.
  • Cough or sneeze into your bent elbow. 
  • Eat a healthy diet, stay hydrated and get enough sleep.
  • Avoid anyone who is sick.
  • Ask your doctor about having prenatal checkups by phone or video conference.
  • Make sure you’re up to date on your vaccines, including the flu shot, Tdap and COVID vaccine.
  • Identify one support person who can be with you during labor and delivery. (If you also have a doula, plan for a video call.)
  • Plan for a back-up caregiver in case you or your partner contract the virus.

If you’re pregnant and you begin to have symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, dry cough, shortness of breath), the first step is to call your OB-GYN and/or primary care physician.  

Read the latest information from the CDC about pregnancy and COVID-19.

Get more information about coronavirus from Healthy Driven Chicago.

The information in this article may change at any time due to the changing landscape of this pandemic. Read the latest on COVID-19.

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