BOSTON – One small piece of good news – initial indications are that pregnant women are no more susceptible to COVID-19 infection than other people.
Studies from China looked at women who tested positive shortly before giving birth. Only eight percent experienced severe illness, and one-percent became critical.
Obstetrician-Gynecologist Dr. Kadhy Diouf, associate Ob-Gyn at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, says pregnant women should take the same precautions as everyone else.
“There’s really no indication that women are getting more severely ill,” says Diouf. “It comes from the studies out of China that looked at pregnant women. So, even though the evidence is limited, it is reassuring for now.”
The doctor recommends pregnant women practice social distancing and wash their hands frequently. She says checkups can be spread out to once every six weeks, and many can be done over the phone.
Hospitals have set up special wards to keep people who are ill away from those who remain healthy.
The babies in the studies tested negative for the new coronavirus at birth, and hospitals found no virus in the mothers’ amniotic fluid or breast milk. However, Dr. Diouf cautions that newborns could catch the virus from contact with an infected caregiver.
“If a mom is diagnosed with COVID and just gives birth, we are actually separating mothers from infants for a certain period of time,” says Diouf. “And allowing other healthcare providers, or other well people in the household, to feed the baby.”
There has been an uptick in interest in home births in the past few weeks, but Diouf still recommends going to a hospital rather than risking transmission between the family and a doula or midwife.