The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the healthcare landscape for many patient groups — including pregnant women.
Changed hospital policies, concerns about contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and changes in doctors’ office hours have had an impact on pregnancy.
Information about pregnancy and COVID-19 is constantly evolving. This article covers the information currently available about pregnancy during the pandemic.
Tips and practices
Pregnancy can be an exciting time, but it can also be a time of uncertainty. The COVID-19 pandemic is understandably increasing further stress and can trigger anxiety in some people.
During pregnancy, signs and symptoms of high stress include:
- changes in appetite
- frequent feelings of anxiety and concern about pregnancy and delivery
- poor sleep disorders
- , concentration
Pregnant women may want to try the following: Stress relief practices and tips:
- Don’t watch physical media or watch news 24/7. Instead, limit the news to key times of the day, such as morning or before dinner, leaving the evenings free to relax and encourage sleep.
- Ask a doctor or midwife about online birth classes, which are excellent places to meet and talk with other pregnant women.
- Try meditation, deep breathing, or gentle stretching.
- Take care of important relationships by connecting with friends and family over the phone or via video conferencing.
- Get enough sleep by going to bed at a consistent time and limiting screen time beforehand.
- Maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Eating well and staying active can help the body stay healthy in times of mental illness.
- Take up a new hobby or rediscover an old one, such as playing an instrument, learning a language, or reading. People are also welcome to make blankets, clothes or handmade toys for the upcoming baby, or decorate a children’s room.
- Use online support groups and forums for pregnant women and new parents.
- Consider an online consultation. Therapy can be helpful for anyone suffering from anxiety, depression, or stress.
- Ask for extra help — this may mean that a partner may take over more of the care of the children, or that a neighbor does the shopping and drops the bags outside the door.
If a woman is suffering from significant psychological stress, it is important to talk to a doctor, midwife or counselor.
Depression during pregnancy is common but treatable. Even if they distance themselves physically, pregnant women don’t have to face depression or other mental health issues alone.
Read more about depression during pregnancy in this article.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has also set up a Disaster Distress Helpline, which people can access by calling 1-800-985-5990 (TTY: 1-800-846-8517) or sending TalkWithUs to 66746.
To support the mental wellbeing of you and your loved ones during this difficult time, visit our dedicated hub to discover more research-backed information.
Physical distancing during pregnancy
Avoiding contact with others, particularly with large groups of people, can reduce transmission of the coronavirus.
Many areas have enacted home or safer home accommodation policies that discourage people from going outside, with the exception of essential travel, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, or making other necessary visits.
It is important to continue attending prenatal appointments. However, please note that some of these appointments can be made over the phone.
Modern technology is enabling medical practices to change the way they help people, including pregnant women.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women talk to a doctor to determine how often they should go for in-person visits.
Doctors can offer online video calls known as telehealth. They may recommend scheduling ultrasound appointments or other in-person visits to reduce a woman’s risk of transmission.
When possible, securing important items with a partner or delivery service can help reduce a pregnant woman’s exposure to the public.
People should always wash their hands when returning from the grocery store or taking a walk outside.
Learn more about the difference between physical distancing and self-isolation in this article.
COVID-19 effects during pregnancy
As COVID-19 is a new and evolving health crisis, the effects on pregnancy have not yet been identified. They remain uncertain whether pregnant women are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 or of having more severe symptoms, and whether they may transmit the virus to the baby.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is currently no evidence that pregnant women are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms than the general population.
A small study of nine pregnant women in the third trimester with COVID-19 and pneumonia symptoms in Wuhan, China, found that a baby tested positive for the virus 36 hours after birth.
However, tests of the woman’s placenta and umbilical cord were negative, which could mean that the newborn had contracted the virus after giving birth and not in the womb. This sample size was very small, making it difficult to draw conclusions.
Another study involving 38 pregnant women who tested positive for COVID-19 in China did not find that their symptoms were more severe than the symptoms of the general population.
The study did not report maternal deaths or transmission of COVID-19 to babies.
A recent study from the UK, which is currently available online as a preprint form, found that more than half of pregnant women hospitalized with COVID-19 were black or ethnic minorities. These populations may therefore be at higher risk of negative effects during pregnancy.
This study fits in with an increasing body of evidence showing that COVID-19 is having disproportionate effects on people from Black, Asian, and ethnic minority (BAME) communities. Some experts believe this is due to widespread discrimination and systemic racism in healthcare. Read more here
When should you self-isolate
If a pregnant woman has symptoms similar to COVID-19, such as a cough, fever, or shortness of breath, she should see a doctor.
The doctor can make recommendations as to whether COVID-19 testing is required or not.
If the woman’s symptoms are mild, a doctor will likely recommend that she self-isolate at home.
Home treatment includes taking paracetamol to relieve fever, resting and drinking plenty of water.
High fever or difficulty breathing are signs that urgent treatment is needed. Try calling the hospital before you arrive at the emergency room so they can take all necessary precautions.
Do you have to give birth alone in hospital?
Some hospitals in the United States have banned visitors for the foreseeable future — including during childbirth — to protect healthcare workers and other patients from the virus. However, the number of support staff allowed to enter the delivery room may vary from hospital to hospital.
For example, the University of Chicago Medicine has stated that they will allow one supportive person during a vaginal delivery but none during a cesarean delivery.
The policies for a support person may vary. It is best to contact the appropriate hospital to ask in advance for guidelines for a support person.
Some women may consider the option of a home birth as an alternative to ensure they can have their partner, family member, or friend present.
While this is possible for some people, it is important to remember that COVID-19 procedures may delay admission to hospital if complications arise during childbirth.
Ask a doctor
The pandemic has caused many pregnant women to experience changes to their birth plans, which can lead to stress and uncertainty.
When they have all the necessary information, they can feel in control and reduce anxiety.
Questions you should ask a doctor include:
- How can your office hours or accessibility change
- Are there any online alternatives to prenatal classes where I can meet and talk to other pregnant women?
- How can I make sure I’m safe when I visit my doctor’s office or go to hospital?
- How can I expect COVID-19 concerns in hospital to impact my delivery?
- Will there be any changes to the medications I may receive or the number of people present in the delivery room?
A woman can also ask her doctor about area-specific or condition-specific changes.
Pregnant women may experience additional stress, anxiety, or depression during the COVID-19 pandemic. But even if they self-isolate, they don’t have to face these issues alone.
It’s best for pregnant women to focus on the elements they can control, including self-care and physical distancing.
Regular contact with a doctor or midwife can also help alleviate concerns about health and childbirth.
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