Pregnant or with a newborn or children: Coronavirus and what you need to know
Last updated: Tuesday 17 March 2020, 11.31 am. Mater continues to work as part of the broader health network in support of Public Health efforts to test, contain and manage COVID-19. For the latest information on protecting your family please read Mater’s updates here.
As the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases increase across Australia and the world, we understand it can be overwhelming to make sense of all the information currently available.
So we’ve asked our Mater Mothers’ maternity experts to answer some of the most commonly asked questions from our mothers community.
The good news is, to date, evidence indicates that pregnant women are at no more risk than non-pregnant women. Additionally, so far there has been a much lower rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children, compared to the general population.
Now, on to some of the commonly asked questions our parents are asking:
How is COVID-19 transmitted?
The virus appears to spread readily, through respiratory droplets, but also through faeces and things that you can touch (surfaces, towels etc). People are most contagious when they are most symptomatic (i.e. the sickest) but spread can also occur when a person is asymptomatic. To help restrict the spread of the infection, you and your family should focus on good hand hygiene, avoiding handshakes and large gatherings, and practicing social distancing.
Can COVID-19 be transmitted in pregnancy?
Only one case of possible transmission from mother to baby has been reported. In this case experts have said that the baby was very unlikely to have caught the virus during pregnancy, and rather caught it as a newborn. One researcher has recently tested amniotic fluid, cord blood, neonatal throat swabs, breastmilk samples and placentas from COVID-19 infected mothers, with all samples testing negative for the virus.
What effect does COVID-19 have on pregnant women and new mums?
The vast majority of women will experience either nothing (asymptomatic) or mild to moderate cold/flu like symptoms. Fever and cough are the most common symptoms, with runny nose and sneezing being less frequent symptoms. Initial data suggests that pregnant women get no more (or less) sick than non-pregnant women who have contracted the virus.
The greatest risk with COVID-19 appears to be in older people, those whose immune system is suppressed, or with underlying health conditions like diabetes, cancer, cardiac conditions or chronic lung disease.
Does COVID-19 affect babies?
It doesn’t appear to cross the placenta and so it is unlikely to harm babies. There is also no data to indicate that COVID-19 causes miscarriages. To date, there has been a much lower rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children, relative to the general population, in all countries around the world.
Is a caesarean section safer?
There is no evidence to suggest that a caesarean section is safer for women who have COVID-19, and it is not being recommended as a birth option for this reason alone. The evidence we have to date is that transmission to babies does not happen during pregnancy or during the birth.
Will women with COVID-19 be looked after differently in labour?
For women planning a vaginal delivery, for most this will still be possible. Staff caring for women in labour with COVID-19 will take all possible precautions against spreading the virus. Monitoring of the baby’s heart rate throughout labour will also occur to ensure that sufficient oxygen is getting through to the baby at all times.
What about breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is encouraged for all mums. The early data indicates that COVID-19 does not pass through breast milk, but protective antibodies to coronaviruses do. The concern for new mums who have COVID-19 is rather their close contact with their baby, as the virus is most commonly spread by respiratory droplets.
Like always, mums should thoroughly wash their hands (for at least 20 seconds) before each feed. Some guidelines are recommending COVID-19 positive new mums to wear a face mask while feeding.
What should we all be doing?
The advice for pregnant women is no different to everyone else in the general community.
Think about keeping grandparents safe
You may need to call on someone to help care for your baby or other children if you become unwell. A lot of the time we call on grandparents for this help, but it’s important to remember that older people are the most likely to become seriously ill or potentially be fatal from COVID-19.
Now is a great time to think about making alternative arrangements and consider who you can call on, should you or your partner become unwell.
If you do have to call on grandparents, please ensure you’ve spoken with them about how they can reduce their risk of infection while caring for your baby or children.
Hygiene is key
The most important thing you can do to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 is to practice good hygiene. This includes:
- cleaning your hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rubs
- covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing
- avoiding touching your face, nose and mouth and avoid shaking hands
- staying home if you are unwell
- avoiding contact with anyone who is unwell—try to stay 1.5m away from anyone coughing or sneezing.
Mater continues to work as part of the broader health network in support of Public Health efforts to test, contain and manage COVID-19. For the latest information on protecting your family please read Mater’s updates here.
As is usual practice, if you feel unwell, please avoid visiting family or friends in hospital and seek medical attention for any symptoms.
Anyone with concerns, please call 13 HEALTH or find up-to-date information on the Queensland Health website.
For early pregnancy bleeding or pain, or urgent pregnancy related issues please present to the Pregnancy Assessment Centre 24 hours a day 7 days a week or call 07 3163 7000.