It’s the unavoidable question: How Does COVID-19 affect pregnant moms and babies?
Odds are, if you’re pregnant, you never thought about what you’d do in a world pandemic.
We don’t blame you.
COVID-19 is shaking the entire world up, and straining our healthcare systems in ways we’ve never seen. Our clinicians are being pushed to limits they never dreamed they would be, and we’re all wondering how this affects us as individuals and a global community.
But babies are still being born. And the needs of pregnant women and new babies still need to come at the top of priority lists as experts just aren’t familiar enough with this virus and its effects on pregnant women or their babies. Dr. Neel Shah is a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School. In an interview with Yahoo Finance, he said that though we’re not sure how the virus affects pregnant women and infants, and the risk that they become severely ill isn’t likely high, it is still an issue.
As is pregnancy in this age in general. Healthy families still worry about exposure, routine mid-wife/doctor pre-natal checks are not the same and delivery rooms are very, very different. More homebirths than ever are happening, yes…but again, we’ve always advocated for mamas to be able to have whatever birth plan they wanted. COVID-19 is making that extremely difficult.
What do you need to know about COVID-19 and pregnancy?
Several things, really. Most importantly, you want to minimize risk of infection to the best of your ability. Check in with your healthcare providers and ask what they want you to do. Many are fine with telehealth visits and may have you track your weight, blood pressure and even blood sugar on your own. If you need an ultrasound or labwork, you may be asked to do that at one time, or only on an urgent basis simply to reduce your exposure to infection risks.
COVID-19 may also bring prenatal care back to what many natural-minded mamas already do, which is limit prenatal appointments. If you’re low-risk in the first place, you most likely will be fine with this. Higher-risk women, such as older moms or those with diabetes or multiples may need more in-person contact, but again, not necessarily as our bodies are incredible and much can be done through telehealth visits. Remembering that hospitals may be understaffed, if your doctor or midwife lets you know she can’t do a routine appointment, odds are that’s still okay.
Researchers are currently looking at how COVID-19 affects mothers, affects new babies, affects breast milk and how breast milk may provide protection for babies. Research takes time to be credible, and that’s one thing this pandemic hasn’t given us much of in relationship to knowledge and power.
That said, the CDC still recommends mothers nurse their babies, and as we all know, science again and again proves the benefits of breast milk against illness and in boosting immunity. Whether or not you nurse your baby if you are positive for the virus will be up to you and your doctor, and frankly, this virus even has experts on both sides of the fence due to such little knowledge right now.
When it comes to labor and delivery? Just remember that hospitals are doing the very best they can. Most birthing mothers are given the option of one birth partner–so unfortunately many mamas are being asked to choose between their spouse/partner/significant other and their doula or midwife. There are ways that your midwife still can be part of your experience, though–consider technology like Facetime or Zoom or even the good old fashioned phone to have your midwife or doula with you. No, it’s not optimal, but these are different days for sure.
And as for after you’ve given birth? The sad fact is that the social distancing and isolation we are facing will make postpartum much more difficult and you’ll need ALL the support you can get. Plan to self-quarantine at home with your little one. In fact, this is the PERFECT time to consider lying-in as pretty much everything in life right now is all set up this way. Have people (sanitize and) bring things to you and just spend the time you can with you and babe. Yes, it’s sad grandparents are not going to get to meet and greet for a bit, but remember…this is a fragile time for them (and for your babe) so it’s more important now to limit contact you and babe have with anyone outside of immediate family members.
That said…STAY IN TOUCH with your friends and family through other methods. You are likely to experience baby blues anyway…having your child in the middle of a pandemic? Certainly worthy of needing extra support. Your life has just changed, and in entirely new world. Reach out to people, video chat or text with them. Celebrate this new life. Take pictures to remember this time. Talk to your doula/midwife about how to help prevent postpartum, and if you feel symptoms of postpartum depression, be sure to contact your providers for help. Now more than ever, it’s important for you to know those symptoms, and for your partner to know and look for them as well. There are many telehealth mental resource options due to COVID-19, so take advantage of them!
When this passes, and it will pass, this time of your life will never be forgotten. It most likely looks NOTHING like you planned it would or could. Remember that it’s okay to grieve the losses of experiences that you may face. They’re valid, and being cognizant of them and battling them head-on will make you stronger in the end.
And keep sniffing that sweet baby’s head. It’s magic!
Photo: MIA Studio/Shutterstock