What do pregnant women need to know about coronavirus?

Local News

(ABC4 News) — Governor Herbert implemented a list of several recommendations to curb the spread of coronavirus in Utah on Thursday.

The announcement of these precautions, along with school, religious, and sporting event cancellations could cause some level of anxiety for even those with strong immune systems.

However, for pregnant women and those with infants, the spread of this pandemic could be even more frightening.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is little information available about how coronavirus affects pregnant women and the fetus or newborn.

The site says that pregnant women are at higher risk than the general population of getting certain infections. For example, pregnant women are more likely to become seriously ill from influenza, which is related to COVID-19. However, in the case of COVID-19, health officials currently don’t know if pregnant women and infants are at greater risk than the general public.

According to the CDC, pregnant women should take similar precautions as others to avoid infection, such as washing hands with soap and water and avoiding those who are sick. See ABC4’s recent digital story to learn the most effective way to wash your hands to prevent spreading germs, according to the Salt Lake City Health Department.

Dr. Andrew Pavia, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Utah and Director of Hospital Epidemiology Program at Primary Children’s Hospital, gave similar information in the following statement:

“In general, pregnant women are at increased risk of infection and severe complications from viral infections like influenza or related coronaviruses, like those that cause SARS and MERS. However, data from COVID-19 patients have not strongly suggested that this is the case for the current situation. While we do not yet know all the ways that COVID-19 affects pregnant women, it is still important for mothers to protect themselves by washing their hands and avoiding people who are sick. We have not yet discovered any proof that pregnant women can transmit the COVID-19 virus to babies in the uterus. Scientists and physicians are still studying this to see if it can happen, but for now the risk does not seem high.”

Erin Clark, MD, Division Chief of Maternal Fetal Medicine at University of Utah Health, agreed.

According to a blog post on the University of Utah’s website, it is also unlikely that pregnant women who test positive for coronavirus will transfer the virus to their baby at any point during delivery either.

“Vertical transmission or transmission from mother to baby before, during, or after immediately delivery has not been shown for COVID-19, but it can’t be entirely ruled out,” Clark said. 

According to the University of Utah, miscarriage and stillbirth have been reported in cases where the mother suffered from other coronaviruses like SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, but that was not necessarily from the fetus becoming ill with the virus.

A rendering of coronavirus via the CDC.

“If moms get really sick, they are at increased risk for preterm birth, low birth weight and pregnancy loss,” Clark said. “Those outcomes may not be directly related to fetal infection with the virus, but rather the fact that the mother is so ill.”

Currently, there is no information on pregnancy outcomes regarding COVID-19 specifically. Since COVID-19 is believed to be spread through saliva droplets, mothers infected with the virus could transfer the virus to their newborn after delivery. Therefore, they should take precautions such as separating themselves from the newborn, wearing a face mask, and maintaining hygiene.

So far there is no evidence that mothers can pass COVID-19 onto newborns through breast milk. Visit the CDC’s website for information on breastfeeding while infected with COVID-19.

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