Pregnancy is a joyous time that’s also accompanied by some very normal worries. Will my baby be healthy? How is my health as a pregnant person affected by everyday things — a cold, hair dye, cleaning a litter box? To add to these typical concerns, you may also be wondering how the COVID-19 pandemic could impact your pregnancy or delivery.
We’ve teamed up with Dr. Weslei Rice, St. Joseph & Texas A&M Health Network family medicine physician who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology, to answer some common questions.
Q: Am I more susceptible to getting COVID-19 as a pregnant woman?
Dr. Rice: In general, pregnant women are more susceptible to all sorts of infections because, during pregnancy, the immune system is relatively suppressed. There is no evidence specifically regarding COVID-19 to suggest that pregnant women are at great risk.
Q: Can I take immunity-boosting supplements alongside my prenatal vitamins?
Dr. Rice: We suggest that you discuss any planned supplements with your doctor. In general, vitamin C and vitamin D are safe for pregnant women. Other ways to increase your immune function are to get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, stay well hydrated, and reduce stress.
Q: Will immunity-boosting supplements harm my baby?
Dr. Rice: There are many supplements that are not safe during pregnancy. Discuss any planned supplements with your doctor prior to taking them.
Q: Should I continue to receive my regular prenatal checkups?
Dr. Rice: Regular prenatal care is essential to the health of you and your baby, so it is important to attend your regular prenatal checkups. Please know that your physician is taking special precautions to keep all of our patients healthy during this challenging time. Reach out to your specific doctor’s office to see how they are handling things.
Q: Do I need to take any precautions when going to my prenatal checkups?
Dr. Rice: Most practices are altering our patient flow to help keep social distancing. This includes seeing fewer patients on a given day and having fewer doctors in the office at any given time to allow more space between patients. It is wise to wear a mask while in public, and you will see office staff and doctors doing that as well. As always, hand hygiene is helpful to keep you well.
Q: Is it safe to deliver at the hospital?
Dr. Rice: We understand that coming to the hospital during a pandemic may feel scary. Please know that we are taking extra precautions to keep everyone safe and healthy. This includes isolating sick patients, staff and patients wearing masks, and limiting visitors.
Q: If I have COVID-19, how will it affect my delivery?
Dr. Rice: If you have COVID-19, you will be placed in an isolation room and asked to wear a mask to keep from spreading the infection. There may be other measures that need to be taken as well, depending on how ill you are. These would be case by case and done for you and your baby’s safety.
Q: If I have a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case, will I have to have a C-section?
Dr. Rice: In patients with COVID-19, there is a higher incidence of delivery by C-section. Each case is different, and we encourage you to speak to your doctor about your specific risks.
Q: How many people can I have in the delivery room?
Dr. Rice: Right now, we are allowing one support person in the delivery room with you. Unfortunately, no children, including siblings, are allowed at any time.
Q: Can I have my doula and my partner with me in the delivery room?
Dr. Rice: We are allowing doula support right now in addition to your support person; however, if you do decide to get an epidural and no longer need the doula support, then you will again be limited to one support person.
Q: If I get COVID-19, will it endanger my baby?
Dr. Rice: Again, the data are limited about COVID-19 in pregnancy. If you are infected at the time of delivery, it is possible to infect your baby after birth.
Q: Can COVID-19 cause pregnancy complications?
Dr. Rice: COVID-19 is a serious illness and can impact your pregnancy. We do not know the full extent of how it affects pregnant women. We encourage you to talk with your doctor about your specific case.
Q: What medications can I take to alleviate COVID-19 symptoms while pregnant? Which medications should I avoid?
Dr. Rice: If you get sick with COVID-19, please reach out to your doctor for specific treatment recommendations. In general, it is safe to take Tylenol (acetaminophen) while pregnant. We recommend that you avoid Motrin, Ibuprofen, and Aleve.
Q: Can I breastfeed if I have COVID-19?
Dr. Rice: The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued some guidance on the management of infants whose mother is infected with COVID-19. Here is their recommendation:
Rooming-in for mothers and well newborns: While difficult, temporary separation minimizes the risk of postnatal infant infection from maternal respiratory secretions. If possible, admit the infant to an area separate from unaffected infants and wear gowns, gloves, eye protection goggles, and standard procedural masks for newborn care.
If the center cannot place the infant in a separate area — or the mother chooses rooming-in despite recommendations — ensure the infant is at least 6 feet from the mother. A curtain or an isolette can help facilitate separation.
Breastfeeding: Because studies to date have not detected the virus in breast milk, mothers may express breast milk after appropriate breast and hand hygiene. Caregivers who are not infected may feed the breast milk to the infant. Mothers who request direct breastfeeding should comply with strict preventive precautions that include the use of a mask and meticulous breast and hand hygiene.
If you have questions about your specific situation, be sure to reach out to your doctor at St. Joseph Health. These are unexpected times, but our team is always here to ease your concerns as you welcome the newest member of your family.