Doctors still don’t know about how pregnancy can be affected by COVID-19, but pregnant women do not seem to become more unwell than other healthy individuals who contract it, said Philippa Roxby of BBC, a British news channel.
Christoph Lees, professor of obstetrics at Imperial College London, noted, “If there were huge risks, we would have seen them by now." Like the general population, most infected pregnant women will exhibit mild or moderate symptoms like fever and recover. The virus can be a problem among pregnant women if they fall ill, but such instances are rare. Those with serious heart problems are in a very high risk group and are recommended to stay indoors and avoid face-to-face contact.
Surveys on Pregnancy and Motherhood During the COVID-19 Crisis
Motherly, a motherhood information platform, conducted a survey from April 15 to 23, 2020 involving 3,169 respondents on the impact of COVID-19. 63% of moms handled child and household responsibilities mostly by themselves, while 30% said they shared it with a partner.
4% said their partner takes care of most of the household responsibilities. 54% of full-time and 71% of part-time moms said they did most of the childcare/household load. The findings were similar to 65% of moms whose children are below three and 64% of moms whose kids are three years and older. When asked how supported they feel at home, 46% felt very supported, 47% said somewhat supported, and 7% felt unsupported. Regarding pregnant women, 72% of them felt mentally worse since the pandemic. 42% of pregnant women decided to split household responsibilities with a partner. 47% said they have one child, while 30% have two or more kids.
When asked if the respondents planned to have more children, 32% said yes and 44% said no. Only 24% of the participants were unsure. Of those who said no, 8% cited financial reasons, along with career (1%), medical considerations (3%), age (6%), concern for the environment (1%), and lack of support (3%). 2% said they did not want to be pregnant again and another 2% said their family feels complete.
When asked what would have the biggest impact on the support of mothers, 50% cited stronger government policy (ex: paid family leave, childcare credits, family aid programs), 21% mentioned more understanding employers (ex: allowing flexible hours), and 11% said better social support (ex: more family-friendly spaces). 7% highlighted greater equality between men and women and 6% wanted a more positive narrative about motherhood.
In another survey done by UK charity Pregnant Then Screwed, 25% of pregnant NHS (National Health Service) staff said they currently feel unsafe, with the number increasing to 31% for BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic people) workers, reported Helen Coffey of The Independent, a British online news website. Among the pregnant NHS workers who are currently treating patients, 26% were more than 28 weeks pregnant. The survey also found that 8% of pregnant women in general are presently worried about their safety at work. For pregnant BAME workers, the numbers increased to 13%. The survey involved 2,150 pregnant workers, with 490 of them working for the NHS.
Can the Virus Cause the Baby to be Born Prematurely
There are some reports of babies being born prematurely to women who fell ill with the virus, but it’s hard to determine the cause for delivery. Dr Ed Mullins, from Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital, London, conjectured, "Where a reason is given, it may be due to signs of distress in the baby or to allow better treatment for low oxygen levels in the woman."
A growing baby places some pressure on the woman’s lungs, heart, and circulation. If a woman is seriously ill with the virus, this could cause breathing difficulties. Marian Knight, professor of maternal and child population health from the University of Oxford, said, "Acute illnesses which cause fever can be associated with premature labour and birth.” She added that most premature births have been caused by early cesarian in women with COVID-related breathing problems, not because of premature labor starting. So far, there is no evidence that an infected woman is at risk of miscarriage.
Can the Virus Be Transmitted to the Baby?
It’s possible. There have been reports about the virus being passed on to babies, but the newborns were discharged from the hospital and are healthy. Lingkong Zeng and colleagues of JAMA Network, an open-access medical journal, found that three out of 33 babies born to COVID-infected mothers had the virus. It is hard to determine if the newborns were infected in the uterus, during labor, or soon after birth when they are likely to have had close contact with their mother. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said there is no evidence that COVID-19 will cause problems with the newborn’s development.
What Should Pregnant Women Do If They Get Sick?
The symptoms of COVID-19 are akin to other respiratory viruses like the flu and colds, said Mary L. Gavin, MD of KidsHealth, a website that contains physician-reviewed information and advice about children’s health and parenting issues. If a pregnant woman has flu-like symptoms, she should stay at home. It is also important to let her midwife, antenatal clinic, or maternity unit know about it. The pregnant woman will not know if she has the virus unless she gets tested. Hence, it is recommended to call a health professional if she starts to exhibit symptoms of the virus.
How Can Pregnant Women Protect Themselves From the Virus?
It is strongly recommended for pregnant women to wash their hands properly and often. They can also use a hand sanitizer that contains 60% alcohol. Pregnant women should not try to touch their mouth, nose, and eyes. As much as possible, they should stay at home and limit contact. If they need to go out, they need to stay at least six feet away from others. Pregnant women should also stay away from sick people. Gavin suggested cleaning and disinfecting objects that people touch often such as phones, counters, and doorknobs.
Experts are currently learning how pregnancy is affected by COVID-19. Still, pregnant women should take precautions such as proper handwashing and social distancing since they are in the very high risk group.