The coronavirus has resulted in a deadly pandemic that has spread across the world. It results in the Covid 19 infection, which affects all age groups across the board. It also affects pregnant and lactating women. With the virus being relatively new, health organizations across the world are issuing guidelines related to different populations being affected by this virus.
One such population is pregnant and lactating women. There are certain guidelines in place when it comes to what protocols to follow both by the pregnant women themselves as well as their healthcare providers if the former are infected with the virus. In this article, we’ll answer some of the questions you may have about what to do if you are a pregnant and lactating woman. This includes not only how to avoid getting infected, as well as what to do if you are infected. So, here goes…
Q1: What is the primary advice for pregnant women?
A1: While pregnant women without any underlying health conditions are no more likely to contract Covid than other adults, you should still follow certain guidelines. You should certainly observe social distancing and wear a mask. You should remain mobile and drink plenty of fluids to prevent blood clots during pregnancy. You should exercise regularly and have a healthy balanced diet. You should follow a folic acid and Vitamin D supplementation plan for a healthy pregnancy. Do attend all your doctor’s appointments and pregnancy scans and get in touch with your obstetrician and gynaecologist if you contract Covid and have concerns about the wellbeing of yourself and your baby.
Q2: Do pregnant women display symptoms of Covid and is this infection more serious if you are pregnant?
A2: Studies in the UK show that about two-thirds of pregnant women with Covid-19 have no symptoms at all and that most pregnant women display only mild cold or flu-like symptoms. However, a small number of pregnant women can become seriously unwell with Covid-19. If you are pregnant and contract Covid, you are at an increased risk of becoming severely unwell compared to your non-pregnant counterparts, especially in the third trimester. If you are in your third trimester, you should practice social distancing more stringently. Pregnant women have been included in the list of those with moderate risk.
Q3: What should I do if I am pregnant and develop symptoms of Covid-19?
A3: You should immediately tell your maternity team, including your obstetrician and gynaecologist that you have symptoms of Covid-19. These include a high temperature, a new continuous cough, and a loss or change to your normal sense of taste and smell (called anosmia).
Q4: What effect will Covid-19 have on my baby if I contract the infection?
A4: So far, there have been no reports to suggest that the infection will cause any problems with your baby’s development. There is also no evidence to suggest that the Covid-19 infection causes miscarriage during early pregnancy. Also, vertical transmission of the virus from mother to baby during pregnancy and childbirth seems to be uncommon. Also, in most cases of babies developing Covid-19 after birth, they remained well. However, pregnant women who became very unwell with Covid-19 were at increased risk of giving birth prematurely because it was recommended that their babies be born early so that the mothers could recover quickly.
Q5: Should I take Vitamin D supplementation?
A5: All pregnant women should take Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy. However, there is no evidence that taking Vitamin D prevents Covid infection or is an effective treatment. You should speak to your obstetrician and gynaecologist if you have any questions or concerns regarding Vitamin D supplementation.
Q6: Should I take the flu vaccination during my pregnancy?
A6: All pregnant women should be encouraged to take the flu vaccination, which is safe at any stage of your pregnancy. This is particularly important during the Covid-19 pandemic, as you want to avoid getting infected with the flu and Covid-19 at the same time. You should speak to your obstetrician and gynaecologist as to where you can get the flu vaccine and whether you should take it.
Q7: What should I do if I develop a new cough or temperature, or both, when I am pregnant?
A7: You should immediately get tested for Covid-19 and you should self-isolate while waiting for the test result. You should also be alert to other causes of high temperature during pregnancy, such as urine infection. If you have these symptoms, you should immediately contact your obstetrician and gynaecologist, who will treat you appropriately.
Q8: Can I travel internationally when I am pregnant during the pandemic?
A8: All individuals should ensure that they have an adequate medical insurance cover when they are traveling abroad. Also, they should follow the guidelines of their home country when it comes to international travel during the pandemic. You should also check whether your insurance company
Q9: What is the advice if I am in my first trimester of pregnancy?
A9: During your first trimester of pregnancy, you should consult closely and continuously with your obstetrician, gynaecologist and maternity team. You can do so on the telephone if you do not want to visit your hospital.
Q10: How can I be supported to be mentally well during the pandemic?
A10: This time can result in an increased amount of anxiety, and more so for pregnant women. These anxieties are likely to revolve around the virus itself; the impact of social isolation; possible reduced household finances, and major changes in antenatal care going from face-to-face to virtual. Your maternity team should ask about your mental wellbeing during each appointment. If you feel you need help you should discuss this with your obstetrician and gynaecologist, especially if you have the symptoms of perinatal depression.
Q11: How will the Covid-19 pandemic affect my antenatal and postnatal appointments?
A11: You should ask your obstetrician and gynaecologist as to the protocol for your antenatal and postnatal appointments. Some hospitals prefer online appointments during this time, whereas others prefer limited face-to-face appointments. You should certainly try not to skip your appointments, because this could lead to severe health repercussions. The important thing to remember is that your maternity team will be able to alleviate your anxiety regarding your appointments and answer all your questions.
Q12: If I am pregnant, will I be tested for Covid-19?
A12: You can consult with your obstetrician and gynaecologist, if you think you need Covid-19 testing. This testing is available at government hospitals as well as certain private hospitals and clinics. If you have a planned Caesarean-section or induction of labour, you may be asked to follow a period of self-isolation and a test for Covid-19 prior to hospital admission.
Q13: After my baby’s birth, is there increased risk for me and my baby?
A13: There is no evidence that a woman who has given birth recently and is otherwise in good health, is at increased risk for contracting the virus or becoming seriously unwell. However, if you have given birth recently you should observe social distancing, remain well-nourished with a balanced diet, and take mild exercise. Also, newborn babies are not at an increased risk for developing Covid-19. However, you should closely observe hygiene, especially washing your hands regularly, when handling your baby.
Q14: What should I do if I test positive for Covid-19?
A14: If you test positive for Covid-19 and are outside a hospital setting you should contact your obstetrician and gynaecologist immediately. If you have no symptoms or mild symptoms you will be encouraged to recover at home. If you have severe symptoms, you could be hospitalized.
Q15: Will my baby be tested for Covid-19?
A15: If you have confirmed or suspected Covid-19 when your baby is born, your neonatologist (who is a doctor who cares for newborn babies) will examine your baby and will advise you about your baby’s care, especially whether your baby needs to be tested.
Q16: Can I feed my baby if I have confirmed or suspected Covid-19?
A16: If you have suspected or confirmed Covid-19, you should have a frank discussion regarding breastfeeding your baby with your maternity team. There is no strong evidence that the virus can be passed on or carried in breast milk. The well-recognised benefits of breastfeeding your baby far outweigh any potential risks of transmitting Covid-19 to your baby during lactation.
Q17: What precautions can I take when breastfeeding my baby?
A17: You should follow certain precautions when feeding your baby. These include, washing your hands before touching your baby, the bottles, or the breast pumps; avoiding coughing and sneezing on your baby when feeding at the breast or the bottle; wearing a mask or face covering when feeding; following recommendations for bottle and pump cleaning after every use, and considering asking someone else who is well to feed your baby with your expressed breast milk or formula milk. If you are admitted to a hospital, a dedicated breast pump should be used.
While these are just some of the questions that pregnant and lactating women have during these trying times, there may be many questions that are not covered in this article. As a pregnant or lactating woman, you should be in constant touch with your maternity team, especially if you are at an increased risk of contracting Covid-19 during pregnancy.
Choosing the right obstetrician and gynaecologist, as well as the entire maternity team is imperative, especially during this time. At Harsha Hospitals, we guarantee you the best possible care during your pregnancy. We treat women’s issues with a great deal of care and compassion. We have some of the best gynaecologists and obstetricians in Hyderabad, India.