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Pregnancy and the Coronavirus: How to Prepare & Protect Yourself

| March 23, 2020

We work very closely with expectant and new parents and right now parents are on edge about COVID-19.  In the past few weeks we’ve been monitoring the public health situation unfold and thought it would be prudent to send along resources and recommendations that we should all be following as it pertains to anyone pregnant.

Pregnant women are automatically immunosuppressed as a result of normal biological processes, so they are even more at risk for catching bacterial or viral infections, some which can be passed to the fetus. We are closely following the mandates from the CDC, WHO, ACOG, and The Governor of New York for COVID-19.

We know many of you may be feeling worried, anxious and overwhelmed with the amount of news and daily updates alone. Some of you may not be taking the information as seriously as others, we are here to inform that it really is a big deal and it will only get worse before it gets better. The only way to flatten the curve and get ahead of the spread is to practice social distancing and stay home.

While it may be disappointing to hear that gatherings like baby showers are being cancelled, or post-birth visits are postponed, there is a valid public health reason for these safety measures. These cancellations help stop or slow down the spread of disease allowing the health care system to more readily care for patients over time. We do not have the medical infrastructure in the USA to handle an overload of symptomatic people and this will lead to more complications. While the private sector is working on a home test kit that will be in the market place soon, we still don’t even have widely accessible testing in the USA, which is why the numbers of those with the virus seem so “low”.

Social distancing is critical. Social distancing is deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Staying at least six feet away from other people lessens your chances of contracting COVID-19. Thats really important right now. California and New York among the first states to declare a state of emergency.

During Labor the least amount of people possible should be present. Only essential care providers, i.e. Doctors, Midwives and doulas who are draped properly and using sterile gloves and instruments. All members of the birth team should be properly draped and wearing a mask and gloves. The good news is that home birth is a  wonderful option to delivering in the hospital where there is a greater chance of contracting an infection.

What you can do:

  • Wash your hands – for at least 30 seconds with soap
  • Clean all Surfaces – The coronavirus lives on surfaces for up to 9 days
  • Avoid Touching your face – The virus travels through the nose, keep your hands out of your nose
  • Use Hand Sanitizer – self explanatory
  • Stay well hydrated – Drink warm fluids, teas and broths
  • Don’t stress – stress impairs the immune system and makes you more susceptible to illness.
  • Stay Home- there is nothing more important than our health, the best way to preserve it is to stay home. Just because you have a strong immune system, doesn’t mean you won’t get sick or become a vector and get other compromised people sick.
  • Practice Social Distancing- Keep at least 6 feet between yourself and others 

How family can stay connected or help once the baby comes:

  • Use Technology + Live Chat- there are many apps including Facebook, Instagram, Zoom, FaceTime (iPhone), Whereby and more that you can use to live chat and see the new baby
  • Set up a group chat – You can have regular updates from a designated person, i.e. the dad or partner, through a group text thread
  • Send Giftcards – What’s really useful since you can’t do a meal train, is to have family send gift cards for groceries and basics so the expectant parents can continue to stock up on goods. i.e. Walmart, Safeway, WholeFoods, Frys, Target, Amazon
  • Send love and prayers – Its a very stressful time for anyone  to be giving birth during a global outbreak

If you have support folks who will be in close contact:

Have you hired a baby nurse or have family coming in to help you? Should you allow people to visit after the birth, there are basic safety expectations in place to protect the safety of the newborn and mother.

  • Don’t allow sick or exposed visitors – If they have a cough, allergies, a head cold, don’t take a chance, they should absolutely stay home
  • Wash your hands- When one enters the space, have them remove outside clothes, wash hands and arms thoroughly, then use hand sanitizer, and practice social distancing.
  • Wear a mask and gloves  – To minimize exposure
  • No Touching the baby – Due to maternal hormones produced during and post labor, mothers can be very protective and especially so during a time like this. Guests should not expect to touch or hold the newborn during this time.

In addition to sharing with you that we practice hygiene practices recommended by leading authorities such as the WHO and CDC, we wanted to share with you the current understanding of the effect of the virus on pregnant women and fetuses. Professionals are working around the clock to learn how the virus spreads and there are still many unknowns but there are what we know so far.

Pregnant Women

It is currently unknown if pregnant women have a greater chance of getting sick from COVID-19 than the general public nor whether they are more likely to have serious illness as a result. Pregnant women are immunosuppressed and experience changes in their bodies that may increase their risk of some infections. With viruses from the same family as COVID-19, and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, women have had a higher risk of developing severe illness.

Pregnant women should do the same things as the general public to avoid infection. You can help stop the spread of COVID-19 by taking these actions:

  • Cover your cough (using your elbow is a good technique)
  • Avoid people who are sick
  • Clean your hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer

You can find additional information on preventing COVID-19 disease at CDC’s (Prevention for 2019 Novel Coronavirus).

Can COVID-19 be passed from a pregnant woman to the fetus or newborn?

We still do not know if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the virus that causes COVID-19 to her fetus or baby during pregnancy or delivery. No infants born to mothers with COVID-19 have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. In these cases, which are a small number, the virus was not found in samples of amniotic fluid or breastmilk.

If a pregnant woman has COVID-19 during pregnancy, will it hurt the baby?

We do not know at this time what if any risk is posed to infants of a pregnant woman who has COVID-19. There have been a small number of reported problems with pregnancy or delivery (e.g. preterm birth) in babies born to mothers who tested positive for COVID-19 during their pregnancy. However, it is not clear that these outcomes were related to maternal infection.

News about COVID-19 is changing minute by minute. You’re likely worried about your family. We’ve gathered helpful articles and resources here to help you feel more prepared and keep your family and community safe.

Resources:

Helpful Articles:

3 Tips for Keeping Your Home (& the Planet!) Healthy
Processing the Birth Experience with the New Mother: Suggestions for The Doula

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3 Tips for Keeping Your Home (& the Planet!) Healthy
Processing the Birth Experience with the New Mother: Suggestions for The Doula