*Information on the coronavirus is developing quickly. This post may become outdated. Please visit the CDC’s website or call MotherToBaby at 866-626-6847 to learn the newest information as it relates to pregnancy.
With information about the new coronavirus coming out daily, you may wonder where you fit in all of it as a pregnant woman.
Are there extra precautions you should take? Are you at a higher risk? What happens if you get it? Is it possible to transfer it to your baby? How can you protect your newborn?
The questions seem endless, but we’ve got some answers.
Before we jump into the information, we should acknowledge that COVID-19 is a new virus and there’s a lot experts don’t know yet. Still, it’s important to keep up-to-date. By the end of February, COVID-19 was detected in 37 locations, including in the U.S. Currently, experts predict that it’s likely the virus will cause a pandemic.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large group of related viruses with symptoms ranging from the common cold symptoms to more serious conditions.
Coronaviruses are common and usually cause mild illnesses, like the common cold. You’ll hear the recent outbreak referred to as a “novel” coronavirus, which simply means a “new” virus that didn’t exist in humans before. This includes COVID-19, which is causing the 2019/2020 coronavirus disease. People who get COVID-19 are cared for differently since it’s significantly more serious than the common cold.
Coronavirus 2019 Facts
New information about COVID-19 is coming out daily. Here’s what we know so far.
Fast Facts on COVID-19 Origin:
- The new disease was first identified in late 2019 in Wuhan, China.
- It’s related to the SARS-associated virus that caused an outbreak in 2002-2003.
- Some coronaviruses affect only animals and rarely spread to humans. It’s suspected that COVID-19 originated in animals and transferred to humans.
- The CDC says there’s no reason to think that pets in the U.S. are a source of COVID-19.
- Despite its origin, viruses do not target a specific race or ethnic background. Educate yourself and others to stop stigma.
Fast Facts on the Spreading of COVID-19:
- Some viruses are highly contagious while others are harder to spread. Right now, it’s still unclear how easily COVID-19 is spread.
- Someone who has an active COVID-19 virus can spread it to others. Patients with the virus are isolated at home or in a hospital to prevent infecting others. How long the virus lasts can vary. For that reason, how long a person is isolated for is decided on a case-by-case basis by doctors and experts.
- While there isn’t enough information to be sure, the CDC says it’s unlikely that the virus can be spread from products or packages shipped from China over days or weeks.
Fast Facts on COVID-19 Illness:
- Experts don’t fully understand the effects of the 2019 coronavirus disease.
- Experts base their current knowledge on what they know about similar viruses, such as MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. Both caused severe illness and death.
- Reported illnesses from COVID-19 have ranged from mild to severe, including death.
- The CDC is investigating and will update the public when they know more.
Fast Facts on 2019 Coronavirus Vaccine and Treatment
- There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19.
- The best way to prevent illness is to prevent exposure to the virus.
- There is no specific COVID-19 treatment but infected people receive supportive care to manage symptoms.
Coronavirus Disease 2019 Symptoms
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 suggest that symptoms can range from mild to severe and can result in death. Symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath
Limited reports of children with COVID-19 suggest the following symptoms:
- Runny nose
These symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus.
Since many of these symptoms mimic a common cold, you may be wondering if you should be tested. The CDC recommends being tested if you experience symptoms within 14 days after travel from China. You should also be checked if you had close contact with someone with symptoms who’s recently traveled to the area. In either case, you should call your healthcare professional before visiting.
If your doctor thinks you may have COVID-19, they’ll notify the CDC. The CDC will work with your local health department to collect, store and ship any samples needed for testing. Currently, only the CDC is testing U.S. samples. You’ll receive a negative or positive result. It’s possible to test negative during the early stages of the infection.
How to Prevent Coronavirus During Pregnancy
Since there is not a COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC recommends that pregnant women do the things they’d usually do to prevent getting sick. Here’s some tips:
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Don’t touch your nose, eyes or mouth.
- Frequently clean surfaces.
- Put tissues directly in the trash.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, rubbing them for at least 20 seconds.
- When to wash hands: after the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Before touching or feeding your baby and after changing diapers.
- Frequently sanitize toys and baby dishes.
- Do not “clean” dropped pacifiers with your mouth when no water is available.
- Use hand sanitizer when soap is not available.
The CDC also recommends against any nonessential travel to China or South Korea. You may also postpone any trips to Iran, Italy or Japan.
It’s worth mentioning that if a vaccine for COVID-19 is introduced, it may not be suitable or accessible for all pregnant women. For more information about this, read In the race for coronavirus vaccines, don’t leave pregnant women behind.
Should I wear a face mask?
Contrary to popular belief, while face masks can prevent an infected person from spreading the disease, they’re unlikely to protect uninfected people. In fact, the CDC does not recommend that people wear them to prevent COVID-19. A face mask is only necessary if a healthcare professional recommends it or if you already have the virus.
Can Coronavirus 2019 Effect Pregnancy?
There is not enough information to say whether pregnant women are more affected by COVID-19.
However, we know that during pregnancy, women experience physical health and immunity changes. This makes them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including the 2019 coronavirus. Expecting women may also experience more severe symptoms and outcomes.
Although we don’t have information specific to COVID-19, the CDC can predict effects based on those of similar viruses, such as MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. With both, pregnant women were at an increased risk for severe illness and death. Miscarriage and stillbirth were observed in some of those cases. This may be because high fevers in the first trimester can increase birth defect risk.
Based on limited information, the CDC says there have been reports of adverse outcomes, such as preterm birth. However, they can’t be sure whether this was caused by the virus.
Can COVID-19 Effect Newborns?
COVID-19 is believed to mainly be spread by close contact with an infected person through respiratory droplets. It’s not yet known whether a pregnant woman with the virus can spread it to her fetus through other ways.
With that being said, the limited information we have specifically for COVID-19 suggests that it may not be transferred. Out of the recent babies born to infected mothers and published in peer-reviewed literature, none of them tested positive. The virus was not detected in breastmilk either.
The Chinese study involved 9 infected pregnant women who had C-sections. It’s still unclear if it could be transmitted through vaginal birth. Since all the women were in their third trimester, we also don’t know if babies would be affected in the first or second trimesters.
Infected mothers must be isolated from their newborns until they’re cleared of the virus.
Experts don’t know if novel coronavirus has any long-term effects on infants born to infected mothers.
There is also no evidence that children are more susceptible to COVID-19. Most cases have been reported in adults.
Helpful COVID-19 Resources:
- CDC’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary
- CDC’s Prevention and Treatment of COVID-19
- CDC’s COVID-19 Symptoms
- CDC’s Pregnant Women and COVID-19 FAQ
- CDC’s Children and COVID-19 FAQ
Summary on the Coronavirus and Pregnancy
Experts say it’s likely that coronavirus 2019 will cause a pandemic. It’s unclear how the illness affects pregnant women or newborns. The evidence so far suggests that expecting women are more susceptible and more likely to experience severe symptoms, including death. The good news is that limited research suggests that it isn’t passed onto the baby or through breastmilk.
There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19. Other than avoiding travel to China and South Korea, the CDC recommends the regular prevention tips listed above. If you or someone close to you has recently traveled to China and you’re experiencing symptoms, call your health professional.
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