Coronavirus and pregnant women: Here’s how COVID-19 might impact the mother-to-be and her child

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Coronavirus and pregnancy: Pregnancy is a vulnerable time for a woman and for her unborn child, with hormonal changes severely affecting the mother-to-be. At such a time, if there is a global outbreak like coronavirus, it is natural for pregnant women to be a little worried about how the COVID-19 could affect them and the child they are carrying. Coronavirus outbreak has created a global health emergency situation, with more than 3,000 deaths and nearly 90,000 affected people across the world. COVID-19 outbreak, which originated in China's Wuhan in the tail end of 2019, has been a cause of concern among health authorities everywhere since there is no known treatment for the virus so far.

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With even the health authorities in a state of slight panic, it is understandable that women who are bearing another life within them are looking for answers on how the disease can affect them. To address some of their queries, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the national public health institute of the US, has come up with a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for pregnant women and has tried to answer these queries.

Is the risk of contracting coronavirus increased in pregnant women?

While the CDC has no information from published scientific reports as yet, the health institute has stated that since pregnant women undergo immunologic and physiologic changes, they are more vulnerable to viral respiratory infections which also include coronavirus. The CDC also stated that as observed in cases of other coronavirus infections like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and other respiratory infections like influenza, pregnant women might be at a higher risk for mortality, morbidity or severe illness, as compared to the others.

Can coronavirus cause adverse pregnancy outcomes?

The CDC, while not having any statistical information on this issue, stated that according to previous observations, stillbirth and miscarriage occurred in cases of SARS and MERS coronaviruses during pregnancy. The CDC added that suffering from high fever in the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the risk of birth defects.

If pregnant healthcare personnel tend to patients of COVID-19, are their chances of adverse outcomes?

The CDC stated that pregnant healthcare personnel should follow the guidelines issued for the healthcare personnel exposed to patients of confirmed or suspected coronavirus. The CDC also said that healthcare facilities may want to consider limiting the exposure of pregnant healthcare personnel to the patients of COVID-19, if feasible.

Can coronavirus pass to infant from infected mother?

While the possibility of passing down the coronavirus to an infant by a coronavirus-infected mother before, during or after the delivery is still unknown, in the limited number of cases reported about infected pregnant women giving birth to newborns, the coronavirus has not been present in the infant, CDC said. Moreover, coronavirus was also found to be absent in the amniotic fluid and the breastmilk, the US national public health institute stated.

Are infants of infected mothers at a high risk of adverse outcomes?

From the data of limited cases of infected mothers giving birth, it seems like adverse infant outcomes like premature birth are likely in such cases, CDC said. However, it is still unclear whether the instances of such adverse outcomes were related to the coronavirus or other causes and hence, the possibility of adverse infant outcomes in cases of coronavirus-infected mothers is still unknown. However, in other cases of coronavirus like SARS-CoV or MERS-CoV, infants have been born premature or small for gestational age.

Is there any long-term effect on infant in cases of COVID-19 infections in pregnant woman or infant?

At present, CDC does not have any data about long-term effects of coronavirus on infants. However, premature birth or low birth weight, in general, cause long-term health issues among the child.

Potential risk to infant breastfeeding from COVID-19 infected mother?

Currently, there has been no instance of coronavirus infection being present in the breast milk of an infected lactating mother in the limited number of cases which have been reported. Moreover, CDC has no information on the transmission of coronavirus through breastmilk. However, antibodies against SARS-CoV were detected in at least one sample, the CDC stated.

With a lot of information not yet available on how coronavirus can impact pregnant women and their child, the CDC has suggested that pregnant women take all necessary general precautions listed out in various advisories.