Finally, in the midst of alarming reports about the coronavirus outbreak, we have some positive news. Pregnant people are not more susceptible to severe COVID-19 symptoms than the general population, a report by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists reveals. What's more, there's no evidence that the illness can pass to a baby during pregnancy or childbirth.
These findings are based on observations that have come out of China, including a report from the World Health Organisation that studied 147 pregnant women. Sixty-four of them had coronavirus, 82 were suspected to be infected, and one person was asymptomatic. Out of the participants, 8% had severe symptoms. The researchers determined that pregnant people were no more likely than anyone else to develop serious symptoms of the virus.
This comes as a relief: Due to changes in their immune systems, pregnant people tend to be more susceptible than the general population to acute symptoms of other sicknesses, such as the common cold and the flu. If this was shown to be the case with COVID-19, officials may have put in place additional restrictions for pregnant people in high-risk areas.
Even so, in an interview with the Washington Post, Daniel Roshan, director of Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine in New York City, personally advised that pregnant women do not fly — and if they must, to do so with the recommended precautions like washing hands, staying hydrated, and taking prenatal vitamins and vitamin C.
As of now, current recommendations for pregnant people remain the same, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "As this is a very new virus we are just beginning to learn about it, so the guidance will be kept under regular review as new evidence emerges," says Edward Morris, MD, President of RCOG.
“As a precaution, pregnant women with suspected or confirmed coronavirus when they go into labour are advised to attend an obstetric unit for birth," Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, notes. Though the virus hasn't been detected in breastmilk, experts still aren't sure the disease can't be passed via breastfeeding. The CDC currently advises mothers to work with their healthcare professionals to determine the best course of action.
Until we have more information, the best bet for everyone is to follow the CDC guidelines regarding hand washing, cleaning frequently touched surfaces, and distancing yourself from those who may be sick. "Pregnant women should take the same precautions as the general public, and should be particularly aggressive with hand washing," says Sona Malkani Garg, MD, who practices at Elitra Health. "They should also be careful to avoid contact with sick people."