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Notes on Women's Health
Notes on Women's Health

Are Pregnant Women at Greater Risk for Developing COVID-19?

Are Pregnant Women at Greater Risk for Developing COVID-19-GarofaloThe COVID-19 pandemic is having an impact on all of our lives. If you are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant, it’s especially important to know the facts about how COVID-19 can affect you during pregnancy. 

The good news is that there is no current evidence that pregnant women are at a higher risk of severe illness than the general population. However, there are some extra precautions to take if you are pregnant to be sure you and your baby stay as healthy as possible during this time. The current health recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) are constantly being adjusted as scientists learn more about this virus, so it’s important to make sure you have up-to-date information.

This article will provide the latest information on what we know regarding the risks for pregnant women developing COVID-19.

What We Know: Risk for Developing COVID-19 for Pregnant Women

Research into how COVID-19 is affecting pregnant women and their baby is currently underway, so data is limited. At this time, the data that is available does not show that pregnant women are at a higher risk for developing COVID-19 specifically. The CDC states:

“We do not currently know if pregnant people have a greater chance of getting sick from COVID-19 than the general public nor whether they are more likely to have a serious illness as a result. Based on available information, pregnant people seem to have the same risk as adults who are not pregnant

However, we know much more about pregnancy and other similar respiratory diseases than we do about novel coronavirus. Pregnant women experience changes in their body that may put them at higher risk for infections in general. A woman’s body undergoes many transformations during pregnancy, including changes in the immune system. In general, pregnant women have compromised immune systems, which can make it easier to become sick. Prenatal infections are a risk as a result.

Regardless of their origin, fevers are also a major concern for pregnant women, because high fevers in first-trimester pregnancies can cause damage to developing organ systems. If you are experiencing a fever, this should be controlled as quickly as possible to prevent this damage.

Additionally, the CDC states that pregnant women have a higher risk of infection and severe illness from other coronaviruses (the same family as COVID-19). These include MERS and SARS.

How to Protect Yourself from Developing COVID-19

At this time, pregnant women should be taking the same hygiene and social distancing precautions as everybody else, which includes:

  • Frequently washing your hands with soap and water for more than 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Practicing social distancing between yourself and others and avoiding large crowds
  • Refraining from touching your eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible
  • Practicing good respiratory hygiene, which includes covering your mouth or using a tissue when sneezing or coughing and immediately disposing of the tissue

Pregnant Women Who Have Been Diagnosed with COVID-19

Fortunately, mother-to-child transmission of COVID-19 is unlikely because COVID-19 tends to stay in the respiratory system rather than traveling to other structures like the placenta. However, it is still very possible to transmit the virus person-to-person after your baby is born. The CDC reports that a very small number of babies have tested positive for the virus shortly after birth, but it is unknown whether transmission occurred before or after the pregnancy.

The CDC recommends that women with COVID-19 who are breastfeeding wear a mask and wash hands thoroughly before each feeding. As an alternative, nursing mothers can also express milk through a breast pump and have another member of the household who is not sick do the feeding.

Because the specific risks of COVID 19 for pregnant women and infants is largely unknown at this time, it’s important to practice the hygiene tips recommended by the CDC and World Health Organization to be as safe as possible. Continue social distancing, and don’t be afraid to call your OBGYN to discuss any concerns you might have, especially if you are developing symptoms while pregnant.

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About the Connecticut OBGYN Practice

Dr. John Garofalo, M.D., is a CT OBGYN based in Fairfield County, providing care for Norwalk, Darien, New Canaan, Weston, Rowayton and the surrounding areas. He has more than 20 years of practice and surgical experience covering many facets of obstetrics and gynecology.

Laury Berkwitt, APRN, is a nurse practitioner specializing in women’s health in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Women undergoing signs and symptoms of menopause can make an appointment with Laury for Hormone Replacement Therapy. Laury has a passion for providing quality women’s health care in a safe and comfortable manner by creating a trusting patient-practitioner relationship. She has been in practice for more than 10 years, caring for women of all ages.