As the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to cause issues for the health care system, pregnant women are finding very little information about their own safety during this time.
“There’s really not a lot out there to know if pregnant women are more susceptible for complications,” said Dr. Emily Roberson with Williamsburg Obstetrics. “We don’t have a great many patients all over the world who were pregnant and might have this virus.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there isn’t currently any information on what the risks are for pregnant women but because they experience so many changes to their bodies, it could increase the risk of some infections. However, viruses similar to the coronavirus, such as other respiratory infections like influenza, have put pregnant women at a much higher risk of developing a severe illness.
For that reason Roberson said even though there is little information for pregnant women, they should still take precautions to distance themselves and practice proper hygiene.
“I’ll admit, the lack of information is a little scary but unfortunately so is this virus,” Roberson said.
At Williamsburg Obstetrics, patients are encouraged to use telehealth resources, such as over the phone appointments, as much as possible. Roberson said the office is currently sorting out which patients can have their appointments rescheduled to later dates and which are in need of an in-person consultation.
“It’s frustrating for patients that need care and yet so important that they separate themselves as much as possible from others in the community,” she said. “There are asymptomatic carriers that can spread this disease.”
For the most part, Williamsburg Obstetrics is taking patients who need services such as ultrasounds or who are in an emergency. This means women who are experiencing bleeding or cramping early in the pregnancy or those that are having contractions, pelvic pain, back pain or leg swelling during the later portion of the pregnancy.
When a woman thinks she might be about to go into labor, Roberson said she should call her doctor to discuss her symptoms and whether or not she should go to the hospital.
Each health care system is currently managing their labor and delivery practices through a different method, Roberson said, but if a patient calls their doctor before going to the hospital then they can go directly to the maternity ward.
At Sentara, Roberson said maternity patients who believe they might be in labor can go through the front door of the hospital or to the emergency room. If the patient doesn’t show any signs of respiratory symptoms or others related to the coronavirus, then they’ll be directed to the maternity ward.
The CDC doesn’t currently have information about whether pregnant women can pass the virus onto her baby during delivery.
So far, there haven’t been any babies born by mothers with the coronavirus that have also tested positive. In the small number of cases where a mother has had the coronavirus during delivery, there was no evidence of the virus in samples of the amniotic fluid or breast milk.
Since there is very little known about how the virus is spread, the CDC said it is currently unclear if new mothers can transmit the disease through breastfeeding. However, it is very rare for the CDC to recommend against breastfeeding because breast milk is known to provide protection against many illnesses.
“Since there’s so little information known, it’s important to keep in mind the hygiene aspects we’ve been speaking to everyone about, pregnant or not,” Roberson said. “Practice good cough etiquette, wash your hands and distance yourself from others.”