COVID-19 is a brand-new strain in a family of viruses known as coronaviruses (Corona Virus Disease 2019) that causes cold or flu-like symptoms for most people. We’re offering some insight into this virus and what you need to know about your pregnancy.
What is Important to Know?
The reason everyone is talking about COVID-19 is that as a new virus, no one in the population has immunity to it. This enables the virus to spread quickly through the population. The fear is that as the virus spreads, it will easily reach those people most at risk of having significant complications or of dying from the infection. If these at-risk people all get sick at once, then the hospital system could very easily be overwhelmed. That is why social distancing and self-quarantining is currently being recommended, even if you personally are not at high risk.
Who are the at-risk populations?
Currently, those at highest risk are people over the age of 80, people over the age of 50 with other underlying medical conditions (diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, etc.), or those who are immunocompromised or taking immunosuppressant medications.
I’m pregnant. Does this mean that I am at higher risk?
Yes and no. The CDC has classified pregnant women as an at-risk group. Pregnant women in general tend to be more susceptible to infections and can have higher rates of complications when they do get sick. However, world-wide data does not seem to show higher rates of complication or worse outcomes for pregnant women with COVID-19 specifically.
If I’m pregnant and am infected with COVID-19, will my baby get it?
Vertical infection, meaning having the virus across the placenta to your baby, has not been observed with this particular infection. There is a risk that if you are sick with COVID-19 and deliver, your baby could be exposed to the virus and get sick. For this reason, your newborn would be kept in a separate room initially.
What are the most common symptoms?
Fever (temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius) and cough are the symptoms most commonly observed. Some patients may feel short of breath.
What should I do if I have these symptoms?
Call your primary physician, or your obstetrician if you are pregnant. It is important to talk with them over the phone to be able to figure out the best course of action. It’s best to call before showing up in a clinic or at the hospital so that your doctor can determine if your symptoms are severe enough to risk exposing other patients to the virus.
If you don’t have a doctor or obstetrician, please feel free to call our triage line. For most people who only have mild symptoms, staying home and limiting contact with others until the contagious phase has passed (usually about 2 weeks) is recommended. However, if you start having severe symptoms it may be prudent to seek medical care in the hospital.
What are severe symptoms?
Watch for trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure that is persistent, altered mental status, and bluish lips or face. If you have any of these signs this constitutes an emergency and you should seek medical care immediately.
What should I do to prevent getting sick?
Limiting social contact is the most important measure you can take right now, in addition to washing your hands thoroughly and often.
Do I need to wear a mask?
No. The only people who need to wear a mask are those who are symptomatic, and the healthcare providers who are taking care of them. There is currently a shortage of all personal protective equipment – meaning that hospitals are having a hard time keeping these things stocked for doctors and nurses. If you are not symptomatic and are wearing a mask, chances are you are taking it away from someone else who actually needs it.
Even if you are around someone who is sick, the biggest risk of infection is still that you will touch something that your sick friend has already contaminated and then inoculate yourself by touching your face. A mask won’t help that, but handwashing will.
Should I still come to the hospital if I’m pregnant and need to be seen for labor and delivery?
Yes! Even though all this is going on, if there is a concern that you are going into labor or that there is a problem with your pregnancy, the hospital is still the safest place to go and be evaluated.
What will be different about my hospital experience because of COVID – 19?
Our hospitals are limiting visitation to one person per patient, meaning that when you check-in, your visitor checks in as well. This is the only person who will be able to be with you through your hospital stay. They may come and go, but they won’t be able to switch out with anyone else. This person needs to be symptom-free and over the age of 14.
What if I think I am infected but need to be seen on labor and delivery?
Plan to come in and be evaluated as you normally would, but please let the staff know before you arrive so they can be prepared. This would involve having an isolation room set up for you and keeping our other patients from being exposed. If you are in labor and end up delivering while symptomatic, your baby would be kept in a separate room until COVID-19 infection was ruled out to prevent the spread of the virus from you to your child.