ASK THE EXPERTS: YOUR HEALTH – COVID-19 AND PREGANCY
WHAT IS COVID-19?
COVID-19 is an illness that affects the lungs and breathing. It is caused by a new coronavirus. Symptoms may include fever, cough and trouble breathing. It also may cause stomach problems, like nausea and diarrhea. It is also important to know that COVID-19 may also cause a loss of your sense of taste or smell. Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after you are exposed to the virus. Some people with COVID-19 have no symptoms or only mild symptoms, others may become seriously ill.
HOW DOES COVID-19 AFFECT PREGNANT WOMEN?
Researchers are still learning how COVID-19 affects pregnant women. Current reports suggest that pregnant women have a higher risk for more severe illness from COVID-19 than nonpregnant women. Reports note that:
- Although the overall risk of severe illness in pregnant women is low, studies have shown that pregnant women are more likely than nonpregnant women to need care in an intensive care unit (ICU), to need a ventilator (for breathing support), or to have other serious complications from COVID-19.
- Pregnant women with some health conditions, such as obesity and gestational diabetes, may have an even higher risk of severe illness, similar to nonpregnant women with these conditions.
- Pregnant women who are Black or Hispanic have a higher rate of illness and death from COVID-19 than other pregnant women, but not because of biology. Black and Hispanic women are more likely to face social, health, and economic inequities that put them at greater risk of illness.
HOW CAN COVID-19 AFFECT MY BABY?
Because this coronavirus is new, researchers are learning more about the virus and the illness that it causes every day. Here are some important things that they know now:
- Researchers have found a few cases of COVID-19 that may have been passed from the mother to her baby during pregnancy. These are rare, but worthy of mentioning.
- Some studies suggest that there may be an increased risk of preterm (premature) birth and stillbirth for women with COVID-19. Other studies have found this not to be true. Because information is still limited, researchers are continuing to study the outcomes to better understand the effects of COVID-19 before birth.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I AM PREGANT AND THINK I HAVE COVID-19?
If you think you may have been exposed to the coronavirus and have a fever or cough, call your OBGYN or primary care provider for advice.
If you have emergency warning signs, call 911 or go to the hospital right away.
Emergency warning signs include:
- Having a hard time breathing or shortness of breath (more than normal for your pregnancy).
- Ongoing pain or pressure in your chest
- Sudden confusion or being unable to respond to others
- Blue lips or face
If you experience other symptoms that worry or bother you, call your doctor or 911.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I AM PREGNANT AND DIAGNOSED WITH COVID-19?
If you are pregnant and diagnosed with COVID-19, follow the advice of the CDC and your doctor. This includes:
- Stay home except to get medical care.
- Call on the phone before coming into the office.
- Get medical care right away if you feel worse or think it is an emergency.
- Separate yourself from other people in your home.
- Wear a face mask when you are around other people and when you receive medical care.
I WANT TO GET PREGNANT. SHOULD I WAIT BECAUSE OF COVID-19?
Pregnancy is a very personal choice. It may be helpful to think about your health and your potential risk should you become ill with COVID-19. You and your doctor should talk about the latest research on possible increased risk of severe illness during your pregnancy and steps that you can take to prevent exposure to COVID both before and during pregnancy.
As you review what we know today, it is important to know that some reports suggest that pregnant women may be at higher risk for more severe illness than nonpregnant women. Pregnant women with certain health conditions such as gestational diabetes and obesity may also have greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19. And while it seems to be rare, there have been some reports that COVID-19 may have been passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy.
Information contained in this FAQ was compiled from the recommendations of the Women and Infant Clinical Guidance Council based on the guidance and advisements provided by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), The Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. While this information was developed by our doctors following the guidance of experts in our field. It is not meant to give specific medical advice and is for reference only. Medical Advice can and should be provided by your doctor or other healthcare professional.