If you’re pregnant and expecting a baby in the coming months, you’re probably concerned about the current Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Should you be worried? Edwina Sharrock, a Registered Nurse, Midwife & Creator of Birth Beat, an online childbirth education program, explains everything you need to know about pregnancy and Coronavirus and how to protect you and your baby.
As a Registered Midwife and childbirth educator, I’m speaking with lots of expecting and new parents right now and the mood is a mixture of confusion and anxiety. I think a lot of this has to do with our social media feeds and the relentless media cycle – there’s a lot of information out there about and much of it conflicting.
If you’re pregnant and concerned about Coronavirus and what that could mean for you and your baby, here’s a summary of everything you need to know.
What’s the current situation with Coronavirus?
COVID-19 was first identified in the Hubei Province, China. As we know, the virus continues to spread globally and has already had a huge impact here in Australia socially, even though our number of confirmed cases and deaths are relatively low (450 cases and 5 deaths at time of writing).
However, it’s important to note that worldwide, the current death rate is approximately 3% and here in Australia, just over 1%. And of those deaths, the majority have been in people that had pre-existing health conditions.
Do pregnant women need to take extra precautions to protect themselves from Coronavirus?
During pregnancy, a woman’s immune system is compromised. While you’re generally at greater risk of contracting an illnesses and viruses, based on the best available information currently available, the risk of falling ill during pregnancy with Coronavirus is relatively low.
The best way to protect yourself from the Coronavirus (or any cold or flu) if you’re pregnant is by following these simple measures:
- Wash your hands thoroughly (at least for 20 seconds) and regularly before eating, touching your face and especially when you’ve been out in public.
- Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with you in case there are times when you can access soap and water. Although, if your hands are visibly dirty you should always wash with soap and water.
- Minimise non-essential outings and stay at home wherever possible.
- Don’t travel overseas.
- Avoid close contact with anyone you know that is unwell or has been in the past 14 days.
It’s also advised that you’re up to date with all immunisations including the Whooping cough vaccine and the new-season Flu vaccine, which will hopefully be available in the coming weeks.
What should I look out for and when should I seek medical assistance?
The symptoms of Coronavirus vary from very mild (some people report no symptoms at all) to others becoming severely ill. The most common symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
If you’re pregnant and have any of these symptoms, you should:
- Stay home and call your healthcare provider.
- Use a tissue anytime you need to cough or sneeze, throw it away immediately and then wash your hands thoroughly.
- Disinfect surfaces and objects that you touch frequently.
- Isolate yourself from public and work for at least a 14-day period.
Pregnancy and Coronavirus: what about baby?
Based on the best-available current evidence, the Coronavirus poses a minimal risk to your unborn baby. Just like any cold, flu or virus, your best defence is common sense hygiene.
Please don’t feel any undue stress or anxiety about the Coronavirus and the risk to your baby. The latest information from WHO states that in the few reported cases of infants with COVID-19, they’ve experienced mild illness. It’s also reassuring to know that so far, there is no evidence of mother-to-baby transmission during birth.
But, as always, if you’re worried or have any symptoms, you should speak to your healthcare provider.
Where should you go for further information about pregnancy and Coronavirus?
Try not to get lost in a social-media spiral or late-night Google searches!
The best place to search for up-to-the minute, accurate information on the Coronavirus is the World Health Organisation.
For more details on the current Coronavirus situation here in Australia, the best source of information is the Australian Government Department of Health website.
Right now in terms of pregnancy and Coronavirus, precautionary public health measures are having more of a direct impact on pregnant mums than the virus itself. For example, many public and private hospitals, including Northern Beaches Hospital, Hornsby Hospital, Royal North Shore and Royal North Shore Private have cancelled their upcoming antenatal classes. There are also restrictions being placed on visitors and some services.
If you’re unsure whether your classes or birth plans have been or will be affected, contact your healthcare provider so that you can start making alternative plans if need be.
And importantly, your mental health is just as important as your physical health, so look after yourself. Amidst the global craziness that’s happening right now, this is still a super exciting time for you and your family, so enjoy your pregnancy and that feeling of anticipation for your new arrival.
If your antenatal classes have been cancelled and you’re due to give birth in the coming months, you may be looking for alternative options. Birth Beat offers comprehensive online childbirth education through The Ultimate Online Prenatal Program. Birth Beat was created by Edwina Sharrock, a Registered Nurse and Midwife who’s delivered 100s of babies and helped over 1000 parents prepare for childbirth. Birth Beat enables you and your partner to prepare for childbirth and early parenthood with up-to-date, evidence-based information – all from the comfort of your couch.