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How Does COVID-19 Affect Pregnancy? – Update

So much is still unknown about COVID-19. One person insists we wear masks, while another swears they don’t work. One doctor will say the disease is airborne only and another will say you can get the disease by touching surfaces. The only thing that is certain is COVID-19 has impacted the lives of all of us. Parents are concerned about their children. Older adults appear to be at highest risk, and pregnant women wonder how it may affect their unborn babies.

Pregnancy and COVID-19

In the Spring of 2020, very little information was available regarding the effects of COVID-19 on a pregnancy. In its earliest months, the only information came from China. A study done over the summer in Los Angeles included 134 pregnant women who tested positive for the disease. More than 82% of the women had symptoms. Of those who had already given birth, none of their babies were infected.

What We Know Today

As we move into the fall, health organizations are still struggling to provide more information about the effects of COVID-19 on pregnancy. As of June, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported, “Limited information is available about SARS-CoV-2 infection in U.S. pregnant women.” However, they did suggest that pregnant women might be at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness. 

In a September 1st article, the World Health Organization (WHO) wrote, “pregnant women seen at the hospital with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are less likely to experience a fever or muscle pain, but if they develop the severe disease they are more likely to need intensive care than non-pregnant women with COVID-19.” WHO did suggest, however, that pregnant and recently pregnant women with the disease were more likely to give birth prematurely.

Words such as “likely, suggests, possible, and might be” do not give comfort to a woman facing pregnancy in 2020. It does appear that because a pregnant woman’s immune system (particularly the lungs and cardiovascular system) is already stressed, she may be more vulnerable to severe COVID-19.  

Do I have COVID-19?

The only way to positively know if you have COVID-19 is to test for the virus. Testing is more available across the nation and people with definite symptoms are given priority. According to the CDC, people with COVID-19 have had a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe illness. They note symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.

The following COVID-19 symptoms are from the Centers for Disease Control:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore Throat
  • Loss of taste or smell

This is not a complete list of the possible symptoms. Other less common symptoms have been reported, including nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

The CDC encourages people to seek emergency medical attention if they show any of the following signs: *

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • Confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

*This list does not include all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider if you have other symptoms that are concerning you.

Call 911 if you are experiencing severe symptoms. Notify the operator that you are seeking care and have or may have COVID-19.

If You Think You Might Be Pregnant

When you are sexually active, there is always the possibility you might get pregnant. If you’re experiencing early pregnancy symptoms, visit Palm Beach Women’s Clinic for no-cost pregnancy testing. Our tests are 99% accurate so you can be sure you’re getting the correct result. 

After a positive pregnancy test, you will want to have an ultrasound. You need the information that only an ultrasound can give you to make a decision about your pregnancy. Our ultrasounds are also offered at no cost to you. Depending on the results of your ultrasound, we can sit down and talk about your options

If You Are Pregnant 

Because the data does suggest that pregnant women may be more vulnerable and therefore have a higher chance of ending up in the ICU, it is important that they take every precaution to protect themselves. Further research is needed to determine what, if any, pregnancy complications are due to COVID-19. As always, you should be receiving regular prenatal care from a doctor. Do not skip your prenatal or postpartum appointments. If you are concerned about contracting the disease, contact your healthcare provider. It is essential for you to avoid getting the disease.

 Follow these steps to reduce your risk:

  • Avoid close contact with others by following the social distancing rule of 6 feet.
  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly.
  • Use hand sanitizer if hand washing is not available.
  • Work with family members and your workplace to use sanitizing best practices.
  • Take care of your mental health during this crisis – it is as essential for your baby as it is for you.

Pregnant or not, the virus can have severe consequences, and you need to be proactive. Stay safe!



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