Safety in Pregnancy During COVID-19 Part 2
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives in many ways. For those who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant during the pandemic, there are even more concerns for health and well-being than average. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant at this time, the best source of information and guidance is always your OB or midwife.
However, as part of our mission at Portland Acupuncture Studio, we aim to provide various resources to our community. So we wish to offer some general information about the risks associated with pregnancy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research is continually emerging, and too little is still known about this topic. This information is not meant to be complete and is subject to change quickly as more is learned. This blog was written in October 2020 with the information available at that time.
The following is to be used for informational purposes only, not for medical advice. Be sure to consult with your OB or Midwife for the most up-to-date information for your specific circumstances.
What is Currently Known About COVID-19 and Pregnancy
- It presents fewer risks during pregnancy than other viruses, but it is still risky
According to the Mayo Clinic, the overall risk of COVID-19 infection to pregnant women is relatively low. We have seen viral infections that cause far greater risks for pregnant women, such as the H1N1 influenza (the “Swine flu’) or Zika, both of which have devastating complications for both pregnant women and babies. Unlike Zika, COVID-19 infection does not appear to cause any fetal birth defects. However, there are still increased risks associated with COVID-19 infection and pregnancy.
- The risks of COVID-19 in pregnancy are real
The CDC states that pregnant people are no more likely to contract COVID-19 than non-pregnant people, and have no increased risk of death even if infected. But, once ill, they may be more likely to have a severe illness, need to be admitted to the ICU more often, and/or placed on ventilators more frequently. Pregnant women who develop COVID-19 infection may be more likely to deliver their baby pre-term, and their baby may be more likely to be admitted to the NICU. Additionally, due to systemic racism, Black and Hispanic women who are pregnant have higher rates of contracting COVID-19, and of having more complications once infected.
- Certain factors increase your risk of more severe illness if infected during pregnancy
Being obese in pregnancy or having gestational diabetes increases the risk of having a more severe course of COVID-19 infection. Advanced maternal age also seems to be a factor in having more severe complications once COVID-19 infection occurs in pregnancy.
- Transmission of COVID-19 to babies during pregnancy is rare
More data is needed, but so far, it has been shown that it is rare for a mother infected with COVID-19 to pass it to her baby during either pregnancy or delivery. However, it is still possible to transmit it to a baby after delivery, so ask your doctor about precautions you can take to prevent transmission if you have become infected with COVID-19 during pregnancy.
- Breastfeeding appears safe, even with COVID-19 infection
Research to this point suggests that the virus is not passed through the breast milk, but further studies are needed to be certain. Since breast milk is the best source of nutrition for your baby, be sure to talk to your doctor about this important factor before your baby arrives.
- Pregnant COVID-19 patients are more likely to have longer term symptoms and post-partum complications
When COVID-19 infection occurs during pregnancy, there is an increased chance of having symptoms longer than average, and of having post-partum complications. The most common of these seen so far are fever, low blood oxygen levels, and readmission to the hospital after delivery. If you have COVID-19 in pregnancy, be sure to stay in close communication with your prenatal care provider both during pregnancy and after delivery, and let them know if you have any concerning symptoms right away, especially fever or shortness of breath.
- Prevention is still your best option
We have now seen that there are several measures that truly reduce the spread of COVID-19. Wearing masks, limiting social interactions, staying 6 feet apart from people outside your household, and washing hands frequently are simple and effective things you can do to prevent COVID-19 infection, whether you are pregnant on not. Being sure to strictly abide by these guidelines while pregnant will decrease your risk of having COVID-19 at all.
- Staying in close contact with your health care providers will support your physical and mental health
It is essential that you keep all of your prenatal visits. Ask your provider if you can do some over Telemedicine if you are nervous about going out too often. Be sure to ask your provider any and all questions you have about pregnancy and delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact your provider ASAP if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, such as a fever, shortness of breath, cough, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, headache, nausea or diarrhea. Be conservative – they are there to answer your questions!
Additionally, having acupuncture sessions during your pregnancy can help support your overall health, reduce unwanted pregnancy symptoms such as back or hip pain and heartburn, and reduce stress. Adding acupuncture to your prenatal care plan can help you stay healthier during this important time.
More information is emerging daily. Again, be sure to ask your OB or Midwife about the latest research and how it affects your precise circumstances. At Portland Acupuncture Studio, we are dedicated to helping our pregnant patients stay safe and healthy. We wish you and your baby well during this time. Contact us anytime with questions. Stay well!