8 Questions You May Have If You're Pregnant During COVID-19Sep. 29, 2020 - Katie McCallum
Pregnancy always comes with a lot of questions. Thankfully, there's plenty of literature (and plenty of time) to get most, if not all, of your questions answered.
Enter the COVID-19 pandemic — an unprecedented event that's thrown even veteran moms for a loop, and left new moms feeling like that "What to Expect When You're Expecting" book was missing several chapters.
To fill in the gaps, Dr. Lexanne Mauney, OB-GYN at Houston Methodist, is here to answer the common questions expecting moms may have during COVID-19.
Does being pregnant mean I'm high risk?
"Initially, there was a lot of confusing data about whether or not being pregnant truly increases a woman's COVID-19 risk," says Dr. Mauney. "We've known for a long time that pregnant women are at higher risk of getting very sick as a result of common respiratory illnesses, such as the flu. But early on in the pandemic we were lacking the data to say this would also be the case for the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and it was frustrating not being able to give pregnant women clear, confident answers."
Dr. Mauney says that the data is now showing that the likelihood of experiencing a severe COVID-19 case is indeed higher for pregnant women than for women who aren't pregnant.
"There's increasing evidence that a significantly higher percentage of pregnant women are hospitalized as a result of COVID-19, as compared to nonpregnant women. In addition, pregnant women are more likely to be admitted into the ICU and in need of ventilator support," warns Dr. Mauney.
This means that if you're pregnant, you may have a higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19. This also means that you should be extra vigilant, taking community mitigation practices — including social distancing, wearing a mask and practicing proper hand hygiene — very seriously.
Can I pass COVID-19 to my baby?
Aside from your own increased risk, you're probably also worried (if not more worried) about the risk of passing COVID-19 to your baby if you do get sick. But, Dr. Mauney says you don't need to be too concerned.
"There are anecdotal reports of moms passing COVID-19 to their babies, but, overall, placental testing indicates that vertical transmission of this virus is very, very rare," explains Dr. Mauney. "That being said, you still want to avoid getting sick, since COVID-19 symptoms can definitely make being pregnant feel even more uncomfortable, and it could potentially even result in a trip to the hospital."
Is it normal to be this stressed?
Pregnancy is stressful at the best of times. And then there are those postpregnacy "baby blues" to worry about, too.
Right now, there's also the stress of a pandemic and the stress of being pregnant during a pandemic. Given the layers of complexity to our current stress levels, it likely comes as no surprise that depression rates and referrals to psychologists and counselors are all up right now.
"We know that depression can have negative effects on pregnancy, leading to low birth weight, an increased risk of preterm birth and other negative outcomes," warns Dr. Mauney. "If you're feeling down or anxious, do not hesitate to reach out to your OB-GYN. The stress and anxiety from all the unknowns we're facing is totally normal, and we can help reduce the risk of depression affecting your pregnancy."
Is it safe to go to work while pregnant during COVID-19?
Let's face it — you need to work. And you may not have the opportunity or ability to work from home while pregnant during COVID-19. So, how worried should you be about your safety while at work?
"I encourage expecting moms to continue working, but with extra precaution," says Dr. Mauney. "To ensure your safety, your work environment needs to take social distancing into account, require everyone (employees and guests) to wear masks and give you plenty of opportunity to practice proper hand hygiene. In addition, I recommend that expecting moms ask to work in areas with the lowest risk of exposure to someone who could have COVID-19."
If needed, don't be afraid to ask your OB-GYN for a letter you can provide your employer stating that the above precautions need to be taken to safely accommodate you in the workplace.
Is my prenatal care still safe during COVID-19?
"Prenatal care is one of the most important steps in decreasing maternal and neonatal morbidity," explains Dr. Mauney. "Even though we're in the middle of a pandemic and you're on high alert about the virus, it's vital that you follow your OB-GYN's prenatal care guidelines and understand that your prenatal care is still very, very safe."
To keep you and your baby healthy but also help reduce your risk, our OB-GYNs have transitioned as many in-person appointments into video visits as possible, and Houston Methodist doctor offices, imaging centers and hospitals are taking extra measures to keep you safe when you do need to come in for an in-person visit.
"The frequency of video visits vs. in-person visits will vary by trimester. Your first visit with your OB-GYN will be in person, but many of your early prenatal checkups can be accomplished via video visits," says Dr. Mauney. "Later during your pregnancy, as well as when an ultrasound or bloodwork is needed, you will have to come into the office. But, rest assured that we're doing everything we can to make your visit incredibly safe."
The extra precautions we're taking to keep you safe during your prenatal care, include:
- Using video visits for prenatal checkups whenever possible
- Screening all patients when scheduling appointments and upon arrival
- Redesigning waiting rooms and check-in lines to ensure social distancing
- Wearing masks and other personal protective equipment while providing patient care
- Implementing enhanced cleaning and sanitizing processes to disinfect all equipment and surfaces
Can I still participate in childbirth classes and childbirth tours?
If you're following a childbirth checklist, odds are you've seen line items for touring hospitals and taking childbirth classes. These tours and classes are still important, but they need to look a little different during this pandemic.
"To follow social-distancing guidelines and keep expecting moms and our staff safe, we've moved our in-person childbirth events online," says Dr Mauney. "This means you can tour our childbirth units virtually and participate in our childbirth classes virtually, too."
You can view our schedule of live, online childbirth events here. These include:
- Live online childbirth classes
- Virtual childbirth center tours
- Live online breastfeeding classes
Can I still breastfeed?
In normal times, the biggest question most expecting moms have about breastfeeding is probably, "How do I do this?"
But if you're wondering whether that level of skin-to-skin contact is still safe during COVID-19, this question may have shifted to, "Should I do this?"
"Breastfeeding can be an important bonding experience between mom and baby, and it can also still be safe during the pandemic," Dr. Mauney reassures. "I recommend wearing a mask and washing your hands before and after, but otherwise I'm still all for breastfeeding right now."
Plus, Dr. Mauney says that the antibodies passed through your breast milk could even potentially help protect your baby during this pandemic, although we don't know this for sure yet.
How do I plan for child care during COVID-19?
The COVID-19 pandemic has probably also complicated the child-care option you'd originally anticipated using after your maternity or paternity leave. Maybe you've always assumed your parents or inlaws would come help, or maybe you've always thought hiring help at home or sending your child to day care was the way to go. But is any of it safe right now?
"Solving the challenge of child care during this pandemic really just involves a little more planning than usual," says Dr. Mauney.
If you're planning to ask your inlaws for help, make sure they're onboard with taking the steps necessary to ensure your baby's safety.
"If your inlaws are flying or traveling from an area where community spread of COVID-19 is prevalent, they should self-isolate as long as possible before interacting with your baby — at least 10 days," recommends Dr. Mauney. "They'll also need to wear a mask around the baby and practice excellent hand hygiene."
If you're planning to use at-home child care or day care, just be sure the person or place is taking all of the extra precautions needed to keep your baby safe.
"COVID-19 has definitely made child care a bit trickier," says Dr. Mauney. "Everyone's family and financial situation is different, and you need to do what you need to do — but planning for child care well in advance can help you do it as safely as possible."