Pregnant woman covers nose with tissue to avoid spreading germs like coronavirus

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Coronavirus and pregnancy: What expecting moms need to know

  • Early data from China about COVID-19 suggest pregnant women do not have a much higher rate of severe infection than women who are not pregnant.
  • So far, it seems unlikely that pregnant women who get COVID-19 transmit the virus to their unborn child.
  • Based on limited data, doctors do not think COVID-19 is transmitted through breast milk, but further study is needed.

Cases of coronavirus, or COVID-19, are increasing in Minnesota so this new virus is all over the news. But what you may not have heard a lot about is how this illness may affect pregnant women and their unborn babies.

Here are some common questions I am hearing from expecting parents about coronavirus:

How can I avoid getting coronavirus if I am pregnant?

While you may feel extra vulnerable because you’re pregnant, it’s important you follow the same preventive measures as everyone else:

  • Wash your hands often with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Clean surfaces in your home with usual household cleaners and disinfectants.
  • Try to stand 6 feet away from others, do not shake hands and avoid crowds.
  • Cover your sneezes or coughs, and throw your tissues in the trash as soon as possible.

Are pregnant women at risk for coronavirus?

Early data from China suggests that pregnant women do not have a much higher rate of severe infections or complications than women who are not pregnant. But because pregnant women are more susceptible to other viral respiratory infections, like influenza (the flu), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that pregnant women may experience more severe coronavirus symptoms than the general population.

Will my baby be okay if I get coronavirus?

Because this is a new virus, there is not a lot of research on how coronavirus might affect an unborn baby. There is no evidence yet that coronavirus itself causes birth defects, but it is too early to tell.  What we do know is that high fevers during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the risk of certain birth defects according to the CDC. Catching other viral respiratory infections, like the flu, during pregnancy is linked to low birth weight and preterm labor.

Can I give coronavirus to my baby?

Although it is still unknown if pregnant women who have tested positive for COVID-19 can transmit the illness to a baby still in the womb, it does not seem likely. Because the virus has not been detected in amniotic fluid or breast milk, it does not appear that the virus is transmitted from mom to baby before, during or after delivery. None of the babies delivered so far in China or Italy to mothers with coronavirus have caught coronavirus in-utero, although your baby could catch coronavirus from you after delivery through respiratory droplets.

Coronavirus is generally spread during close person-to-person contact and respiratory droplets, but it can also be spread on surfaces if they are not wiped down after a sick person uses them.

Can I breastfeed my newborn, infant or toddler if I am diagnosed with COVID-19?

Based on the limited data from mothers with COVID-19 and another coronavirus infection, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), experts do not think the virus is passed into breast milk. The data remain limited. We do know that breast milk and breastfeeding provide many health benefits for the child.

Mothers who choose to breastfeed should wash their hands prior to nursing and wear a mask while feeding. Mothers may also consider pumping and having a healthy caregiver bottle-feed the breast milk to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus to the baby through respiratory droplets. Mothers who choose not to give breast milk to their babies during the infection should still pump to maintain supply so they can resume breastfeeding after the illness.

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