Pregnancy and COVID-19 can cause many unforeseen complications. Not only does COVID-19 pose a risk to women during pregnancy, but it can also cause issues during childbirth.
The hidden dangers of pregnancy and COVID-19 include emotional distress and mental health issues, which have proven to be more common in pregnant versus non-pregnant women.
Some very important things to consider are:
- Avoiding COVID-19 infection is top priority, mainly because the immune systems of pregnant women can change, making them more at risk for respiratory viruses.
- Stay at least 6 feet from others, wearing a mask, and avoiding large gatherings.
- Taking advantage of telehealth options that obstetricans offer to monitor pregnancy helps minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection.
Staying informed on pregnancy and COVID-19 is the best way to protect the safety of both you and your baby.
Pregnancy During the COVID-19 Pandemic
There are a number of studies that have uncovered important information for expectant mothers.
Being pregnant during a pandemic can take a toll on both physical and mental health due to:
- Anxiety around contracting the virus
- Isolation from friends and family
- Limited ultrasounds and doctors appointments
According to an article published in the New York Times, an increased number of pregnant women died, had complications, or delivered stillborn babies during the pandemic.
Risks of COVID-19 During Pregnancy
As data from the past year is analyzed, it is becoming apparent that pregnant women with COVID-19 are at higher risk of severe disease than non-pregnant women of the same age.
One study that was published in Nature (a leading international weekly journal of science) included data from over 11,000 women. The women had confirmed or suspected COVID-19 and were hospitalized during pregnancy.
Findings from this study on pregnancy and COVID-19 included that:
- Almost 6 times as many women needed surgery for ectopic pregnancies during the pandemic than before it
- The chances of pregnant women with COVID-19 being admitted to the intensive-care unit (ICU) are 62% higher than for non-pregnant women
- The likelihood of needing invasive ventilation is 88% higher with pregnancy and COVID-19
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studied 400,000 women and produced similar results on the increased risk for ICU admission and the need for invasive ventilation.
The following table demonstrates the risks of pregnancy and COVID-19:
|Outcomes||Percentage of Affected Pregnant Women With COVID-19||Percentage of Affected Pregnant Women Without COVID-19|
|Preterm Birth (<37 weeks)||16%||6%|
|Admission to Neonatal Unit||15%||5.5%|
Some early data suggests that COVID-19 infection during pregnancy can damage the placenta. There is also a larger risk of intrauterine fetal demise or stillbirth. According to the New York Times, data from a dozen studies showed that the chances of stillbirth increased by 28%.
I Am Positive For COVID-19: Will My Baby Be Affected?
Samples taken from the placenta, umbilical cord, and blood from mothers and babies show that COVID-19 rarely crosses from the mother to a fetus. This is good news because it means that newborns do not usually suffer from severe respiratory infection.
Some examples of mothers who were positive for COVID-19 that gave birth to healthy children include:
- An Ohio woman with COVID-19 who was on a ventilator, and had a 40% chance of survival during childbirth, gave birth to a healthy baby while sedated.
- A Texas woman with severe COVID-19 gave birth in the ICU to a healthy baby.
While survival stories provide reassurance to expectant mothers, some women still wonder if they should give birth by Caesarean section (C-section) to protect their babies.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), C-sections should only be performed when they are medically necessary to avoid the risk of C-section injuries.
Giving Birth During the COVID-19 Pandemic
One thing is certain — the pandemic has increased stress for mothers during childbirth. A mother’s mental health can take a toll while pregnant during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prenatal anxiety and depression as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) rates have increased during the pandemic.
“Based on the reported results, the harmful effects on mental health currently suffered by women in general and pregnant women in particular are alarming.”
– National Institutes for Health (NIH)
These findings are especially interesting because prenatal difficulties are linked with a greater risk of premature delivery, which is known to be a cause of birth injuries. Thankfully, there are many ways for mothers to protect their mental and physical health from COVID-19 and give birth to healthy children.
How Can I Protect Myself and My Baby From Complications?
Due to the worrisome relationship between pregnancy and COVID-19, women should take every precaution possible to prevent infection.
These precautions include:
- Covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing
- Getting routine check-ups with your doctor during pregnancy and after delivery to ensure the health of yourself and your baby
- Practicing social distancing
- Washing your hands
If you experience COVID-19 symptoms or think you may have been exposed to an infected person, it is very important to call your doctor immediately and follow their advice.