From that first ultrasound picture to the day you give birth, a pregnancy journey is filled with excitement, anticipation, and plenty of questions. When will you feel your baby's first movements? How can you support their healthy development? And what will it feel like to finally hold them in your arms?
Having questions is completely normal during any pregnancy. During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may find yourself with a few more, including how to keep you and your baby healthy and protected from the novel coronavirus.
Every day, medical experts are learning more and more about the virus and how it can impact pregnancy. Based on information so far, there is evidence that pregnant women may be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
"While everyone is potentially at risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2, pregnant women appear to be at an increased risk of acquiring the infection and having more complicated course, based on current data," says Justin Sloane, MD, attending physician, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Penn Medicine Chester County Hospital, Penn Ob/Gyn Chester County.
In addition, though much is still unknown about the risk to babies born to mothers with COVID-19, there may be an increased chance of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth.
As a result, if you're pregnant, you should remain extra vigilant about reducing your risk of exposure to COVID-19 in order to keep you and your growing baby healthy and safe.
Minimizing Your Risk of Getting COVID-19 During Pregnancy
At the grocery store, on a bus, in the park - there's no limit to where you can be exposed to the novel coronavirus. Because COVID-19 is known to spread primarily from person to person, the best way to protect you and your baby during pregnancy is to limit your interactions with people outside of your household as much as possible.
This may mean making some temporary changes, such as opting for takeout over dining in a restaurant or getting groceries delivered to your home. These minor adjustments can go a long way toward staying protected from COVID-19.
"Like all things in pregnancy, protecting yourself and your unborn baby is a group effort. Family and friends should be made aware of your increased risk of infection. Precautions should be taken to mitigate this risk and you should always talk to your provider before planning a trip" Sloane continues.
Of course, there may be instances in which leaving your home is unavoidable. If you or your household members must be around others, take the appropriate precautions, including:
- Washing your hands or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol frequently, especially after being in public
- Putting at least 6 feet of distance — or about 2 arms’ length —- between you and other people
- Wearing a cloth face covering, especially in places where it’s hard to maintain social distancing
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs and countertops, regularly
Remember - there is no such thing as zero risk when you leave your home. But if you and your family take all possible precautions during these critical nine months, you can at least minimize the risks to you and your baby.
Regardless of a global pandemic, pregnancy is a health condition that requires important monitoring and maintenance to support the healthy development of your baby. In order to ensure your pregnancy is progressing as it should:
- Don't skip any prenatal care appointments or routine testing.
- Keep a 30-day supply of medications, such as prenatal vitamins, on hand.
- Continue to get vaccinations recommended by your healthcare provider, such as the influenza vaccine.
- Seek care immediately if you have a medical emergency.
Maintaining open lines of communication with your healthcare provider is especially important right now. Talk to your provider about how to keep you and your baby healthy during the pandemic, and if you believe you may have COVID-19, call your healthcare provider within 24 hours.
Call 911 or go to the emergency department right away if you experience any emergency warning signs, including:
- Shortness of breath (more than what has been normal during your pregnancy
- Ongoing chest pain or pressure
- Sudden confusion
- Blue-colored lips or face
You may have some anxieties about going to see your healthcare provider right now, but these appointments are critical to getting the care your developing baby needs.
Keep in mind - hospitals around the country are implementing extra safeguards to keep patients who need non-COVID-19 related care safe. At Chester County Hospital, we're screening all patients, visitors, and staff for symptoms every day (including the use of thermal scanning, which is the use of infrared cameras to measure skin temperature), requiring everyone in the hospital to wear masks, and following stringent guidelines for social distancing.
In addition, you can ask your healthcare provider if any of your prenatal appointments can be conducted through telehealth using myPennMedicine.
Read more about CCH safety measures and precautions during COVID-19.
Monitoring Your Physical and Emotional Wellbeing
Pregnancy without a pandemic can be overwhelming due to physical, hormonal, and emotional changes. During COVID-19, it's especially important to prioritize your well-being to keep you and your baby healthy.
To begin, make sure to follow the usual guidelines during pregnancy, including eating healthy, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep. Your body is supporting both you and your baby right now, and it's important you take care of it.
Also, as a result of COVID-19, you may be feeling added uncertainty, stress, and anxiety. Be sure to stay connected with friends and family right now, as they can help you navigate some of these feelings. If you're looking for additional support, talk to your provider about current support group offerings, such as the Mommy Wellness Network, at Chester County Hospital.
Being pregnant is an incredibly special time in your life. While it's important to ensure you're doing everything you can to protect yourself and your baby from COVID-19, don't forget to savor the memories. Take pictures, keep a journal, and record your memories - pandemic or not, you'll want to remember these meaningful months for the rest of your life.
Do you have questions about being pregnant during COVID-19? Call 610-738-2300 to find a healthcare provider in the Obstetrics and Gynecology department at Chester County Hospital.
Be sure to stay up-to-date on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines for pregnant women.
Related Information from Chester County Hospital: