Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new strain that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans.
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Pregnant women do not appear to be more severely unwell if they develop coronavirus than the general population. As this is a new virus, how it may affect you in pregnancy is still not clear. It is expected the large majority of pregnant women will experience only mild or moderate cold/flu like symptoms.
More severe symptoms such as pneumonia appear to be more common in older people, those with weakened immune systems or long-term conditions. There are no reported deaths of pregnant women from coronavirus at the moment.
A pregnant woman in general is more prone to getting infections than a woman who is not pregnant. If you have an underlying condition, such as asthma or diabetes, you may be more unwell if you have coronavirus.
There is no evidence to suggest an increased risk of miscarriage. There is also no evidence that the virus can pass to your developing baby while you are pregnant. It is therefore considered unlikely that it will cause any sort of abnormalities in your baby.
Some babies born to women with symptoms of coronavirus in China have been born prematurely. However, the reason to this was unclear. There are high chances that the doctors made the decision for the baby to be born early because the woman was unwell and further delay could cause a major risk to the health of mother.
The question that arises here is what if you are a postpartum mother and then caught an infection? Will you be able to breastfeed your newly born?
At the moment there is no evidence that the virus can be carried in breastmilk, so it’s felt that the well-recognised benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of coronavirus through breastmilk.
The main risk of breastfeeding is close contact between you and your baby, as you may share infective airborne droplets, leading to infection of the baby after birth.
If you choose to breastfeed your baby, the following precautions are recommended:
- Wash your hands before touching your baby, breast pump or bottles
- Try and avoid coughing or sneezing on your baby while feeding at the breast;
- Consider wearing a face mask while breastfeeding, if available
- Follow recommendations for pump cleaning after each use
- Consider asking someone who is well to feed expressed breast milk to your baby.
The most important thing to do is to wash your hands regularly and effectively as soon as you come from public places to your home or workplace. There is useful advice or the best way to reduce any infection risk, not just for coronavirus, but for other things like colds and flu.