Coronavirus & Pregnancy: What Moms Need to Know

Pregnant women’s risk of contracting the coronavirus is low. Here’s what you need to know about this respiratory infection and how to stay healthy.

Because pregnant women experience immunologic and physiologic changes that make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19 pregnant women should take preventative action to avoid this infection, the flu, and other ailments.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

According to the Center for Disease Control, symptoms of COVID-19 may include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Symptoms may appear in as little as 2 days and as long as 14 days after you’re exposed to the virus.

How can you prevent and avoid coronavirus?

It’s very simple, wash your hands, frequently for at least 20 seconds each time. Wash them before you prepare food, eat, after bathroom use, when you cough or sneeze, and if you are caring for sick people. When you don’t have soap and water, use a sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Otherwise:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your elbow, or cough or sneeze into a tissue and then throw the tissue into the trash
  • Clean frequently touched objects and surfaces with a disinfectant cleaning spray or wipe

How does coronavirus spread?

Because COVID-19 is new, there remain many unanswered questions about how it spreads. But experts believe:

  • The virus may spread from person to person, between people who are within about 6 feet of each other, and through droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • It spreads from contact with infected surfaces. Touching a surface or object that has the virus and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes is one way it may spread, although the CDC says it is not believed to the main way of spreading the virus.
  • It may spread before people have symptoms.
  • It is not airborne, so you can’t catch it from breathing.
  • It spreads easily. Not all viruses do, but the CDC believes COVID-19 spreads “easily and sustainably in the community” in some geographic regions it has affected.

Can pregnant women pass the virus to their fetus or newborn?

According to the CDC, the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly by close contact with an infected person through respiratory droplets. Whether a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can transmit the virus that causes COVID-19 to her fetus by other routes of vertical transmission (before, during, or after delivery) is still unknown. However, in limited recent case series of infants born to mothers with COVID-19, none of the infants have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. Additionally, the virus was not detected in samples of amniotic fluid or breastmilk.

Can an infected mother pass the virus to her baby through breastfeeding?

Much is unknown about how COVID-19 is spread. Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how flu and other respiratory viruses spread. In limited studies on women with COVID-19 and another coronavirus infection, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), the virus has not been detected in breast milk, However, the CDC does not know whether mothers with COVID-19 can transmit the virus via breast milk.

Should mothers continue breastfeeding if they have coronavirus or come in contact with someone who is sick?

Ideally, Yes. A mother’s breast milk contains antibodies and other immunological factors that can help protect her infant from flu. She is the recommended source of nutrition for the infant, even while the mother is ill. According to the CDC, whether and how to start or continue breastfeeding should be determined by the mother in coordination with her family and healthcare providers.

A mother with confirmed COVID-19 or who is a symptomatic PUI should take all possible precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant, including washing her hands before touching the infant and wearing a face mask, if possible, while feeding at the breast.  If a mother is too sick to breastfeed her infant, expressing her milk is a good option – her infant continues to receive her breast milk and she doesn’t risk decreasing her future supply. When expressing breast milk with a manual or electric breast pump, the mother should wash her hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use. If possible, consider having someone who is not sick feed the expressed breast milk to the infant.

Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?

Not yet.  But several research universities and drug companies are working on it. At least one possible vaccine is ready for phase I human trials.

How is coronavirus treated?

There is no drug treatment yet and antibiotics are effective only against bacterial infections. Experts recommend treating symptoms: Try ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen for pain and fever; get rest, and drink plenty of water. People with more serious cases need to be in the hospital, where they may need help with breathing and other support.

Is coronavirus worse than the flu?

Per the CDC, there have been at least 29 million Americans sickened by the flu this season, compared to more than 100 who are known to be sick with coronavirus here. While more than 90,000 people are confirmed coronavirus patients worldwide, the numbers are still minuscule compared to the flu.

The flu is also well-known to scientists and doctors, although each year’s strain is slightly different. Flu treatment plans are well-established, and vaccines exist. This coronavirus is brand-new, and health officials are still learning about its spread. It is also possible the virus mutates into multiple strains, as the flu has.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said there are some key differences people need to understand. First, COVID-19 doesn’t seem to spread as efficiently as the flu. The second big difference is that people get sicker from COVID-19.

“While many people globally have built up immunity to seasonal flu strains, COVID-19 is a new virus to which no one has immunity. That means more people are susceptible to infection and some will suffer severe disease,” he said.

Can I get coronavirus from a package?

The CDC says there is likely a “very low risk” of it spreading from products or packaging shipped over a period of days or weeks. “Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Currently, there is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods, and there are no cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods,” the agency says. But it is always good practice to wash your hands after touching shipped objects and certainly before eating or touching your mouth or eyes.

How long does COVID-19 live on surfaces or outside of the body?

The World Health Organization says studies show that COVID-19 may last for a few hours or several days on surfaces. It depends on temperature, the kind of surface, and humidity. Using a simple disinfectant on all reachable surfaces is a good idea.

How is coronavirus diagnosed?

The CDC is supplying states with test kits. Each test result must be verified by the CDC before a diagnosis is confirmed. If you believe you may have COVID-19, call your doctor’s office before you go. Alert them to the situation so they can prepare for your arrival. Do not just go to urgent care or emergency room without calling first. If your health care professional agrees you may have coronavirus, they will contact your state and local health departments.

Is the coronavirus seasonal, like the flu?

It’s possible the coronavirus will die out once warmer weather hits but Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases says we don’t know enough about the virus yet to know for sure.

Most respiratory viruses, like the flu, are seasonal. Coronavirus may behave like the flu and we may see cases go down in spring and summer but it’s premature to assume that.

Information on the coronavirus comes from the Centers for Disease Control.