Novel Coronavirus & Pregnancy – Tips for Expectant & New Moms
If you’re undergoing the pregnancy phase, you might be worried about COVID-19 or Novel Coronavirus – the new global pandemic. While the correlation between pregnancy and COVID-19 is unclear, expectant moms are in the ‘vulnerable group’ for Coronavirus.
If you are pregnant during this pandemic, don’t panic. You just need to take all necessary precautions to protect yourself and the unborn child from the virus. For your help, here’s a quick guide for you to stay safe and healthy.
What is Novel Coronavirus?
There are seven different types of Coronavirus. While most of them are known to cause mild cold symptoms, such as the runny nose and sore throat, other severe forms of the virus, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, can lead to severe illness, including multi-organ failure, pneumonia, respiratory complications, and even death.
The variant of Coronavirus responsible for the worldwide pandemic is SARS-CoV-2, also called COVID-19 or 2019-nCoV. The new Coronavirus is more dangerous than MERS and SARS, and it has completely shaken up the lives of people all over the world.
How does the Coronavirus spread?
The new strain of Coronavirus is transmitted mainly through droplets and objects or materials that are likely to carry infection, such as utensils, clothes, and furniture. You’re most at risk if:
- You touch, hug, shake hands, or get in close contact (within about six feet) with the infected person.
- You touch something that is contaminated with the virus.
Who is at high risk of catching COVID-19?
Although Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) can infect a person of any age, the following people are more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus:
- Older people
- Pregnant women
- People with pre-existing medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, COPD, and asthma.
According to a study by UK Obstetric Surveillance System, some moms-to-be are at a higher risk of developing a severe illness. These are pregnant women:
- Over the age of 35
- Who are overweight or obese
- With pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure
What Are the Symptoms of Novel Coronavirus?
COVID-19 affects different people in different ways. The most common symptoms of Novel Coronavirus include:
- Fever (a high temperature)
- Dry cough (can be any kind of, not just dry)
- Shortness of breath
While other less common symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- Sore throat
- Aches and pains
- A rash on the skin
- Loss of taste or smell
- Discoloration of fingers or toes
- Runny nose
Severe symptoms of Novel Coronavirus are:
- Loss of speech or movement
- Chest pain or pressure
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Most of these symptoms appear 2-14 days after the infection has passed.
Novel Coronavirus Precautions to Take During Pregnancy
Prevention is better than cure in the case of Novel Coronavirus. Take the following precautions to protect yourself from COVID-19 while you’re pregnant:
- Wear a face mask to minimize the risk of inhaling any infective droplets.
- Use double masks when you go out.
- Wash your hands frequently with a liquid hand wash for at least half a minute.
- Maintain a distance of at least 3 feet between yourself and anyone.
- When hand washing is not possible, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Practice good respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette.
- Avoid touching frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Travel less and stay indoors. Avoid non-essential travel.
- Avoid being around people who are sick.
- Stick to a healthy pregnancy diet and get enough sleep to boost your immunity.
- Stay updated and follow the advice given by your doctor.
- Seek medical help immediately if you’re experiencing cough, fever, and difficulty breathing.
- Opt for video consultation for a prenatal check-up, if possible.
- Visit a non-covid-19 center for vaccinations, ultrasound scans, and blood tests.
- Take a lukewarm shower and slip into comfortable expectant mom clothes after reaching back home.
- Keep a thermometer and a pulse oximeter at home.
- Avoid/Restrict home visitors, including cooks, maids, housekeeping staff, to only essential conditions.
- Whenever you cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or bent elbow. Dispose of the used tissue immediately.
- Avoid gatherings and functions.
- Avoid crowded places, like malls, gyms, crowded lifts, etc.
- Minimize visitors coming to meet the newborn and her mother post-delivery.
Breastfeeding guidelines for COVID-19 positive or exposed mothers
Some mothers may be unsure about breastfeeding their newborn during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as per the currently available data, there is no evidence that the infectious virus is secreted in breast milk and can be transmitted from an infected mother to her newborn.
The main risk for breastfeeding infants is coming in close contact with the infected mother, who can pass through the virus via infective airborne droplets. If you’re a breastfeeding mom, take the following precautions to limit the infection spread:
- Wash/sanitize your hands properly before and after touching anything, including your newborn, breastfeeding bottle, or pump.
- Always wear a face mask when coming close to your newborn.
- Maintain good respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette.
- Use a lightweight cotton nursing cover to prevent your baby’s exposure to the virus.
- Avoid using a pump shared by others.
- Try to have a healthy caregiver.
Signs and Symptoms of Mental Health Issues
While pregnant women are already prone to mental health problems, the pandemic can worsen the situation further. The signs and symptoms of mental health issues a woman may face during pregnancy include:
- Crying a lot
- Frequent mood swings
- Lack of concentration
- Changes in appetite drastically
- Thoughts of suicide
- Feeling sad and hopeless most of the time
- Not being able to sleep and wanting to sleep
- Excessive anxiety about the pregnancy and delivery
- Continuous lack of interest in doing your favorite things
Stress & Anxiety Triggers for Pandemic Pregnancy
Some of the stress and anxiety triggers for pregnant women during Coronavirus outbreak are:
- Stay-at-home mandates
- Worrying about catching the virus during the hospital stay
- Stress and pain after the loss of a loved one
- Financial concerns, including unemployment and housing insecurity
- Reduced access to caregivers
- Lack of time for rest or relief due to caring for other young children
- Wondering when the pandemic will end
- Constant exposure to negative news
- Social withdrawal. Unprecedented physical distancing
- Worrying about catching the virus
- Trauma from widespread disease
- Worrying about a loved one getting infected with the virus
- Lack of routine and discipline
- Worrying about transmitting the virus to your little one before or after birth
- Worrying when life will get back to normal
- Hospitals banning or limiting the support persons
Tips to Manage Pandemic Pregnancy Stress
However, by following the stress-relieving practices and tips given below, pregnant women can maintain good mental health even during the pandemic:
- Recognize that you’re suffering from perinatal mental health issues.
- Be realistic. Accept that this challenging time is for everyone.
- Stick to a healthy pregnancy diet.
- Engage regularly in mindful movements, such as walking, yoga, or pregnancy-friendly exercise. Be sure to dress in lightweight and comfortable maternity yoga wear while exercising yoga.
- Get at least 8-9 hours of sleep every night.
- Practice meditation and try relaxing exercises such as gentle stretching, pranayama, and deep breathing.
- Limit your exposure to COVID-19 related news.
- Stay positive, and keep yourself busy.
- Join virtual support groups and forums.
- Join online antenatal classes.
- Read inspirational books and watch uplifting movies.
- Practice physical distancing instead of emotional distancing.
- Pick up a new hobby or rediscover an old one.
- Get fresh air and soak up some sunshine every day. Enjoy nature.
- Avoid alcohol, smoking, and unprescribed medical drugs.
- Consider online counseling to get rid of stress, depression, and anxiety.