Currently corona virus infection has made a significant impact on human race worldwide. COVID-19 is a new strain of corona virus which is a type of RNA virus which specifically affects the respiratory tract and can cause an array of symptoms ranging from mild form to severe form which can cause acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and even death. This virus belongs to the same family of virus which causes common cold. But it has a potential to cause severe disease and it has a capacity to spread exponentially.
It primarily spreads through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes or through saliva or discharge from the nose. It can spread through direct contact and fomites too. Many international bodies like WHO has suggested the strong possibilities of airborne spread too.
How does it affect pregnancy?
Pregnancy is a condition when the immune system is altered and new researches suggest that the immunity is in-flux in pregnancy. As with any other virsuses, pregnant women is at a risk of acquiring this infection also. But good news in that till now worldwide no maternal deaths reported due to corona infection. Most of the corona infection leads to mild variety; it is not noted that corona virus infection increases the risk of miscarriage rate nor it is not a teratogenic (it can cause congenital abnormalities in the fetus). There is no risk of vertical transmission i.e spread of infection from mother to unborn baby in the womb. If a pregnant women contracts corona virus infection in advanced pregnancy, there is high probability that she can experience difficulty in breathing. The reason behind is that in advanced pregnancy already the respiratory capacity is reduced due to the gravid uterus pressing the diaphragm. In this situation, the attending obstetrician may has to take a decision to deliver the woman earlier than the expected date after a thorough discussion with the couple. There is no contraindication for vaginal delivery in a COVID-19 positive pregnant women as there is no risk of acquiring infection for the baby while coming through the birth canal.
It is safe to breast feed even if mother is COVID-19 positive, but need to take extra precautions like washing hands and wearing proper mask while doing so.
What precautions and treatment is advised to pregnant women ?
- Pregnant women should avoid going out of their homes as much as possible.
- Working women should opt for working from home (worldwide guidelines are in favour of this).
- Keep safe distancing even at home
- Better to stay in one room with proper ventilation and attached wash room
- Try not to have food with other family members and not to share utensils, towels, etc
- Saline gargling twice a day would be a good suggestion to prevent infection.
- Wash hands as many times as possible with soap and water or sanitizer atleast for 20 seconds.
- Staying at home does not mean that you can stay awake late at night and get up very late. Try to have a disciplined life ; great importance has to be given to consume plenty of warm water, fruits and vegetables.
- Engage in doing positive things in life, try to do yoga, meditation, reading and listening to good music.
- Try to avoid watching negative information in television and as well as in other social media like whatsapp, facebook and instagram. But at the same time you should be aware of needed information of what is happening worldwide.
- Avoid unnecessary visits to hospitals, please try to have contacts with your obstetrician and team through whatsapp or telephone. Number of antenatal visits should be minimized through tele-consultation. In case of emergencies like bleeding, reduced baby movements and pain abdomen or high blood pressure or labour pain, you have to visit the emergency department (which should be separate from the general emergency department).
There is no vaccination for COVID-19 till now, but it is underway. The medicine like hydroxychloroquine which is used in several parts of the world for prevention and treatment for this infection cannot be used in pregnant women.
Message to pregnant women
No need to get panic about the infection but at the same time you need to be careful and cautious to protect yourselves. The point to highlight is that approximately 90% of corona infection in pregnant women will be of milder variety and covid positive pregnant women can deliver normally and caesarean section is reserved only for obstetric indications.
A new post on FAQs related to pregnancy during COVID-19 can be viewed in the blog ‘Are you Pregnant? Worried about COVID-19: FAQs – Answered by Dr. Shiva Harikrishnan’.