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COVID-19 and Pregnancy: What Women Need to Know
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COVID-19 and Pregnancy: What Women Need to Know

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Highlights
  • Pregnancy during the COVID-19 pandemic increases stress and makes it a huge challenge for the mother
  • Pregnant women should actively seek support for their protection and follow all recommended public health measures like wearing face masks
  • Telemedicine should be used for prenatal check-ups, especially in low-risk cases, to limit the number of hospital visits among pregnant women

With nearly 4 million babies being born each year in the United States, pregnant women are concerned about their health and the health of their children with the recent coronavirus pandemic.

Miatta Buxton, an assistant research scientist in the Department of Epidemiology at the School of Public Health, and maternal and child health expert, discusses the issue.

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COVID-19 and Pregnancy: What Women Need to Know

What Pregnant Women Need to Know

Vulnerability to COVID-19 and Ethnic Differences

Recent information by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that pregnant women who contract coronavirus are at an increased risk of facing severe outcomes such as hospitalization, intensive care, and mechanical ventilation. Though data is limited, recent findings suggest that there is no difference in risk of death between pregnant and non-pregnant women.
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Research has shown that women who are non-whites, mainly African women and women of Hispanic ethnicity, are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 compared to their white counterparts. Data from the CDC states that pregnant Hispanic or Latina women accounted for 48% of COVID-19 cases compared to 23% for pregnant non-Hispanic white women.

Studies have also shown that African American women are 3-4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications. This suggests that African American women have an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and this compounds the risks for an adverse pregnancy outcome.

Studies have also shown that preexisting conditions like hypertension and diabetes worsen the outcome of COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of hypertension among adult African American women is higher compared to women from any other race. The increased risks during pregnancy and increased risks associated with a higher prevalence of existing chronic conditions make pregnant African American women highly vulnerable to COVID-19

Mother to Child Transmission

The theory of vertical transmission of coronavirus from mother to child is inconclusive. Vertical transmission occurs when virus passes from mother to her baby during pregnancy or just after birth. There is no evidence of the virus passing through breast milk either. But, the potential of transmission of virus from an infected mother to her newborn baby is very high.

What protective measures can be taken by:

Pregnant Women

Stress can negatively impact the outcome of pregnancy by causing premature birth or low birth weight babies. Certain measures can be undertaken to tackle the situation. Mothers should take all the necessary precautions, including practicing public health measures and being mindful of whom they are exposed to.

Only seek information from reliable sources like doctors, and nurses for concerns. Mothers should proactively seek out the necessary support and services, to prepare themselves for anything that could come up.

Healthcare Providers

Telemedicine should be used for prenatal care, especially in low-risk patients and who do not require lab work or physical examination. This will help limit the number of people visiting the hospital and allow easier access for patients to communicate with doctors and receive care. Additional measures such as screening patients and limiting the number of visitors, have been taken by hospitals and clinics to protect their patients.

High-risk pregnancy or being closer to their due date, warrants in-person visits so they can be closely monitored.

Post-Pandemic Measures

Even once the pandemic ends, the use of face masks should be encouraged, especially during breastfeeding. The seasonal flu is another infection that gets transmitted easily from the mother to her child. Mothers could wear a face mask to reduce the chance of spreading flu or other illnesses to their babies.

Telemedicine appointments for consultations should also be encouraged post-pandemic. Sometimes due to scheduling conflicts or lack of transportation, people are unable to make it to all of their prenatal visits, which increases the risk of adverse outcomes for mothers and babies.

Conclusion

Public health efforts aimed at mitigating the impact of COVID-19 will need to take existing racial disparities, health disparities, and financial challenges associated with unemployment, into account in order to be effective. These challenges can lead to increased and prolonged periods of stress and may contribute to adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Source: Medindia

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