Some sensible and science-based advice for those expecting during the covid-19 outbreak
Today the Chief Medical Officer, Chris Witty, said that people who would usually be offered the flu jab might be more at risk from covid-19 and said that they should take more precautions than other people. He said that pregnant women should take ‘extra precautions.’
Scientific journal New Scientist and the Royal College of Gynaecologists have shared some advice on what we know so far about this virus. We’ll try to give you a break-down of what it might mean for you.
New Scientist says that, while pregnant women seem not to be at greater risk of catching covid-19, we still don’t have all the information. They also say that the virus does not seem to get passed on to your baby, though a newly delivered mother and her baby both tested positive according to news reports last week. It’s not know if the baby caught the virus in the womb or after the birth.
We still don’t have much knowledge about how the virus moves around in the population and how that might affect you when you’re pregnant. In China, there have only been a few cases, in the tens, of pregnant women being treated for covid-19 in hospital. The first reports from China seem to suggest that pregnant women and their babies have not been badly affected.
However, health experts do say that pregnant women are more likely to be quite ill with flu during pregnancy, due to the fact that pregnancy suppresses the immune system. This is why there is a slight worry at this stage that pregnant women should take great care to avoid those with the virus. In addition, as your baby gets near its due date, your lung capacity gets smaller, as your baby is pressing up on your lungs. This might make you more prone to infection.
In terms of how it might affect your baby, if you were to have a high fever, especially during the first trimester, this can be dangerous for your baby and cause birth defects. We do not currently have evidence from first and second trimester pregnancies.
David Baud at Lausanne University Hospital in Switzerland said: “With any viral infection during pregnancy, the foetus is at risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, growth restriction, malformation”.
There is a slight worry that pregnant women might be more at risk of miscarriage if they get covid-19; in cases of MERS and SARS, viruses similar to coronavirus, pregnant women seemed to be slightly more at risk, though very low numbers were reported or tested at that time.
There is a report from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, in China which says that, of four women who had coronavirus when they were pregnant, all babies were born clear of it and healthy. Another report on 10 babies showed that they all survived, though some had short-term health problems such as shortness of breath or a fever.
Pat O’Brien, vice president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), commenting on a report on 15 women who had coronavirus during pregnancy saying: “In this report, the pregnant women achieved a good recovery without the use of antiviral drugs.”
There was no evidence that the pregnant women had worse symptoms than others.
“At the moment, there’s no evidence whatsoever that there’s an increased risk of miscarriage,” said Pat O’Brien.
More information from RCOG says:
- Pregnant women do not appear to be more susceptible to the consequences of coronavirus than the general population and there is no evidence that the virus can pass to a baby during pregnancy
- As a precautionary approach, pregnant women with suspected or confirmed coronavirus when they go into labour are being advised to attend an obstetric unit for birth but their birth plan should be followed as closely as possible
- At the moment there is no evidence that the virus can be carried in breastmilk, so it is felt the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of coronavirus through breastmilk
We will bring you more information as we have it. In the meantime, keep washing your hands and practicing good hygiene and stay away from those who may have the virus. Call NHS 111 if you are concerned that you might be affected.