Pregnancy and the Pandemic: Your COVID-19 Questions Answered

Caesar Djavaherian, MD, MS, FACEP
February 3, 2021

If you're pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, you may feel particularly concerned about you and your baby's risk for complications from COVID-19. As the pandemic continues to affect people around the world, healthcare researchers and experts are continuing to learn more and more about the virus, including how it affects pregnant women.

Are Pregnant Women at a Higher Risk of Getting Severely Sick from COVID-19?

It's wise to be extra concerned about COVID-19 during pregnancy. Current evidence suggests you have a higher risk for severe illness, hospitalization, and a need for a ventilator if you do contract the virus. Complications can include everything from premature delivery to death.

Your risk may be higher if you're older, overweight, or obese, or if you have underlying health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Your healthcare provider can help you understand your individual risk and may have specific suggestions for you based on your health status.

Preventive Measures for Pregnant Women

Because of the increased risk for severe illness, you should be extra vigilant in taking steps to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19 during pregnancy.

  • You and the people within your household should limit interactions with people from outside of your household. Remember, you can catch COVID-19 from people who don't have any symptoms and may not even know they have the virus. If you do need to be around other people, keep your distance. Experts recommend at least six feet, if possible.
  • Wear a mask that covers both your mouth and nose when you're around other people.
  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly. Lather up with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid activities that make it hard to follow these guidelines.
  • If you or someone in your household has had a known exposure to the virus, or if someone should start to experience symptoms, such as cough, fever, chills, muscle aches, fatigue, or shortness of breath, contact your healthcare provider right away.
  • Your healthcare provider may have specific guidelines for your prenatal visits. Some practices may offer fewer, more spaced out visits than usual, or may integrate telehealth options into your prenatal care. Your provider might have rules around whether or not your partner can accompany you on your appointments or in the hospital. Make sure you understand social distance requirements when you do go in for in-person care.

Can a Mother Pass COVID-19 to the Fetus or Newborn?

COVID-19 isn't common in newborns, even among those born to mothers who had the virus during pregnancy. Some newborns have tested positive for COVID-19, but it's not clear if they acquired the virus while in the womb, during birth, or from contact after birth.

Most babies who have tested positive for the virus have had mild or no symptoms and most have recovered from the virus. Cases of severe COVID-19 illness in infants have happened, but are rare.

If you do test positive for COVID-19 during pregnancy, it doesn't mean you won't get to have contact with your baby. You can still hold, cuddle, and even breastfeed your infant safely. Your healthcare provider may have specific recommendations, such as wearing a face mask when in contact with your baby, that can help prevent you from passing the virus to your baby.

Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Safe for Pregnant Women?

Although the vaccine is believed to be safe in this population, pregnant patients were not included in the clinical trials. The position of most providers and experts in the United States is that it is most likely safe and effective.

According to the CDC and studies to date, pregnant people are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, compared to non-pregnant people. A severe form of COVID-19 could possibly impact one’s own life or the life of the baby, however, we need more data on the true risk of severe infection and poor outcomes during pregnancy.

The American Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends that COVID-19 vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant or lactating women who meet the criteria for vaccination based on the standard recommended priority groups.

It's important to weigh the risks and benefits given the information provided in order to make the final decision on vaccination. We recommend talking to your ob/gyn if you have any questions or concerns about getting vaccinated.

I'm Pregnant. Should I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is a personal choice. Your healthcare provider can help you evaluate your personal risk and determine if getting the vaccine might be a good choice for you.

For instance, if you work in a hospital or setting that puts you at greater risk for exposure to the virus, it might make sense to get the vaccine. Or, if you have a health condition that increases your risk for severe illness, your doctor may recommend it.

Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it can be overwhelming, especially as COVID-19 continues to spread around the world. Understanding your risk and knowing what steps you can take to help lower it can be empowering no matter where you are on your pregnancy journey.

Caesar Djavaherian, MD, MS, FACEP

Caesar Djavaherian, MD FACEP, is the Chief Clinical Innovation Officer at Carbon Health. 


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