RAPID CITY, S.D. – Expecting mothers across the nation want to know what the COVID-19 outbreak will mean for their pregnancy. Heather Moline, MD, who specializes in Obstetrics and Gynecology (Ob/Gyn) at Rapid City Medical Center, has some advice for women who are pregnant or expecting to become pregnant during this time.
There is limited literature available at this time on pregnant women contracting COVID-19, the available information does indicate that due to low immunity in general, pregnant women tend to fall into the a more susceptible category.
“COVID-19 doesn’t appear to target pregnant women compared to other respiratory illnesses such as influenza and SARS, and we don’t believe the outcomes will be necessarily worse when we look at the outcomes from China and so far what has come out of Italy.” said Dr. Moline.
The same type of precautionary measures being recommended to the general public are also being recommended to pregnant women. Dr. Moline advises that mothers-to-be avoid contact with anyone who is currently sick and socially isolate themselves, practice excellent hand hygiene, and avoid any non-essential travel.
The few cases that have been reported on pregnant women have been primarily in the second and third trimester. Mothers who demonstrated positive COVID-19 with symptoms at the time of arriving at the hospital have had an increased risk of pre-term birth or low birth weight, however this data set is small and the majority of patients underwent delivery via cesarean section to expedite delivery of the baby and improve recovery time for the mother.
Currently, there are not enough cases of women contracting COVID-19 in the first trimester to have a firm grasp on the potential long term consequences of the virus on a developing fetus. Regardless of your stage in pregnancy, Dr. Moline suggests the same thing for patients experiencing high fever and significant symptoms of a viral respiratory illness: increase oral fluids and control the fever. “Depleted fluids and high fever can lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes at all stages of pregnancy,” said Dr. Moline.
For those concerned about transmission of the virus to the child, “It appears that if a mother is to become sick with COVID-19 during her pregnancy that there is, right now, very limited data to suggest that there is transmission to the fetus,” said Moline, “While there may be positive cases as we move into the future, it seems that the current infants that have been born to mothers who tested positive for COVID-19 have tested negative for the virus. In addition, there currently does not appear to be any transmission of the virus into breast milk.” Dr. Moline added, “As long as the mother is not too sick to breastfeed, there are still many significant benefits to breastfeeding”
Pregnant mothers and other non-pregnant patients may be apprehensive about entering a hospital due to the increased risk of contracting the virus. In this case, Rapid City Medical Center is offering telehealth appointments, where patients can phone-in for their regular appointments. While this does not allow for neonatal assessments, Dr. Moline still urges regular visits via telehealth or in-person for the continued monitoring of mother and baby. Patients should discuss their pregnancy with their OB/GYN so that they can work on a strategy to be seen regularly and limit their visits to hospitals.
Limiting exposure, practicing good hand hygiene and social distancing is vital to keeping everyone healthy. Dr. Moline suggests that pregnant women especially avoid unnecessary visits to the hospital which includes taking family members to regular appointments as well as visiting family or friends who are admitted for extended hospital stays, for any reason.
Amid all the anxiety about the current situation, Dr. Heather Moline wants her pregnant patients to know that they will be taken care of. “The whole medical system in the United States and everywhere in the world right now is trying to keep patients safe and healthy and we’re working together to do everything we can to keep people as healthy as possible. It is a very worrisome time and the best thing patients can do is just to protect themselves from potential sick contacts and practice social distancing.”