The new coronavirus worries us all. But if you face both COVID-19 and pregnancy, you might have more worries than others. Researchers are learning about coronavirus and pregnancy and how the pandemic affects new mothers.
COVID-19 and pregnancy – effects on women and new babies
First, let’s go over the key info on coronavirus and pregnancy. Many of the annoying colds you get are common coronaviruses. However, some members of the coronavirus family cause severe breathing problems. This includes COVID-19.
The information we have about this new virus continues to emerge. It’s vital to get the latest local advice from your midwife or doctor. Not only is our knowledge of the virus still developing, but the virus itself mutates. Different countries have several different variants. And unfortunately, some are extra contagious.
There’s also good news. So far, there’s no evidence that pregnant women are more likely to catch COVID-19.
If you become infected during pregnancy, the outlook for your baby is good. Coronavirus doesn’t seem to increase your chances of miscarriage. It doesn’t seem to harm the baby’s development either. We don’t yet know whether babies can catch the virus from mum during pregnancy.
After birth, most babies born to mothers with COVID-19 are just as well as other babies. The risk of newborns catching the virus from mum is low, according to a late 2020 research review. You can reduce the chance of passing the virus on by washing your hands and wearing a mask.
The prospects for most pregnant women with COVID-19 are also good. You would probably have only mild to moderate symptoms and get better quickly. Of course, some people do become very sick. It’s more likely when they already have poorer health. You can talk to your midwife and doctor about your situation.
How women are finding the restrictions on pregnancy visits with midwives and doctors
Because they want to avoid places they might pick up the virus, some women are reluctant to visit their healthcare providers. Some even consider home birth when they had planned to birth in a hospital. However, it’s still important to have your routine pregnancy appointments.
As well as going to routine appointments, it’s just as vital to get advice whenever you have concerns. Worryingly, one study found 4 out of 10 pregnant women in the UK hesitated to seek help during the pandemic when the baby moved less. Hopefully, women in countries with fewer cases of COVID-19 than the UK feel safer seeking help.
To keep your appointments during coronavirus and pregnancy, you can often attend by phone or video call. Unfortunately, the same UK study revealed that 6 out of 10 women described virtual appointments as inadequate. They found them impersonal. They also said it was harder to talk about difficult issues. These findings about virtual consultations probably resonate in other countries.
Then again, a phone or video call is better than nothing. A Turkish study compared the distress and anxiety of women who had virtual antenatal classes to those who received nothing. The women who took part in tele-education reduced their distress and anxiety related to pregnancy.
The impact of changes to care during labour
As well as the stresses of COVID-19 and pregnancy, thoughts about how the virus will impact the birth also play on expectant mothers’ minds.
Researchers in Italy and the UK discovered that women particularly worry about having their partner with them at the birth. They also worry about separation from their family due to the pandemic.
Similarly, in a large study in the US, 6 out of 10 said they didn’t receive adequate birth support during the pandemic. And yet, most women did have a birth partner with them. Lack of support might be because they would have liked to use multiple support people.
Fortunately, for women in areas with lower infection rates, like Australia, there may be fewer restrictions. For example,