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Managing COVID19 in pregnancy

There are few things in life more thrilling than watching those two lines appear on your home pregnancy test. Getting pregnant is exciting for most women but also serves as a reminder of the sudden increase in responsibilities.

In times of a pandemic, the journey of getting pregnant and giving birth changes. With the coronavirus outbreak still in its prime in multiple countries across the globe, there has been an acute change in the healthcare delivery to pregnant women for better safety measures.

How Can You Prevent Catching the Infection When Pregnant?

Pregnancy is a challenging time for the body and the mind. A healthy pregnancy requires multiple wellness visits to your doctor or midwife, good diet, and adequate exercise. With the coronavirus infection at large, visiting your doctor for a pregnancy follow-up is a question many expecting women ask.

Although the evidence at large does not show an increased risk of harm in pregnant women who have contracted covid-19, they are still considered a vulnerable group because the body behaves differently during pregnancy.

This, however, does not mean that you should skip your monthly pregnancy health checkups. In fact, recent guidelines suggest that women should keep up with their checkups as they would before the pandemic, but with better safety and preventive measures.

If you have the facility to get a checkup done, online or otherwise, from your midwife or doctor at home, keeping yourself and your baby safe from the virus can be a lot easier. However, if that is not an option, some important safety measures that you should strictly follow include the following:

It’s important to make sure you attend all your pregnancy appointments and have an easy access of communication with your maternity team whenever you need.

Many tertiary care hospitals have adopted a screen for covid-19 patients in their maternity wards to filter out patients who have the virus from those who don’t. It’s a good idea to visit a healthcare center with a filter room for extra safety measures.

What If You Get Infected While Pregnant?

The highly contagious covid-19 virus has a propensity to spread rapidly and insidiously. Sometimes preventive measures don’t suffice, and you end up getting the infection anyway. If this happens while you’re pregnant, the first thing to remember is to not panic. Excessive stress and anxiety can have detrimental effects on the outcomes of a pregnancy, maybe more so than the virus itself.

Since the virus is very new, little is still known about its long-term consequences on pregnant women and their health. What we do know for now, however, is that getting the virus during pregnancy does not put you at an increased risk of a serious illness unless you have an underlying disease. In fact, pregnant women are no more at risk of developing critical infection than the average healthy person. Most pregnant women will run through an asymptomatic or mild course and recover spontaneously in a few days.

In spite of this, it’s important to manage your infection wisely as you progress through your pregnancy. Being aware of the key symptoms of coronavirus is pivotal in understanding your disease progression. Mild cases will only develop a low-grade fever, a dry hacking cough and/or body ache. Moderate cases of the coronavirus can develop a high-grade fever with persistent cough and a mild shortness of breath.

Severe and critical illness, on the other hand, will progress to a severe shortness of breath and the need of oxygen supplementation and hospitalization.

Most mild and moderate cases can be managed at home without ever needing to go to the hospital. Making sure your immune system is good may halt the progression of the disease and help your body in its road to recovery. It’s important to take your vitamins and supplementations as prescribed by your OB/GYN. Vitamin D is one of the key nutrients that are often supplemented in pregnancy; low levels of which can put you at a risk of developing a serious coronavirus infection.

Currently there is no cure for the virus. Taking antibiotics or antivirals for the coronavirus treatment has shown no concrete evidence of improvement in symptoms as of yet. Using these medications during pregnancy can be dangerous for the health of your baby and should be strictly avoided unless advised by your physician.

It’s also a good idea to keep tabs on your oxygen levels at all times once you contract the viral infection. A handy pulse oximeter can help – any value below 95% oxygen saturation should be evaluated at the hospital.

Can My Baby Catch the Virus From Me?

COVID-19 is hypothesized to spread through a droplet and aerosol route; there is still scarce evidence of it spreading through the transplacental or vertical route. However, since this infection is highly contagious, vertical transmission could very well be possible.

The good news is that studies have shown babies born to pregnant women seldom had symptoms of the infection and were born healthy.

Another important route of virus transmission could be through breast milk or through the close contact with the baby during breastfeeding. New mothers who currently have, or have recently recovered, from the coronavirus are encouraged to use a breast pump instead of directly breastfeeding their baby. Formula milks are another safe option for extra cautionary measures.

Should You Plan Your Pregnancy During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

The high infection rate of the virus, the increasing number of deaths every day from the infection and the burden on the healthcare system make one wonder whether these times are right for planning a pregnancy or not.

The bitter truth is that the coronavirus is here to stay, and we might not have the vaccine readily available to us for another year or so. If getting pregnant feels like the right time to you, the current pandemic shouldn’t offset your plans.

As long as you maintain you follow the standard coronavirus safety protocol and manage your pregnancy wisely, there’s not much to worry about!

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