Coronavirus In Pregnancy: Infection, Symptoms & Risk For The Baby

by Khadija MAWHOUB

The coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread in the world. So far it is unclear whether and when it can be treated and contained. The best strategy, as with all infections, is prevention. How to prevent coronavirus infection during pregnancy and what are the risks in an emergency.

The good news first: Doctors assume that the coronavirus can at least not be transmitted to your baby during pregnancy. However, this knowledge relates to the limited experience to date. At the same time, there are some dangers for both of you with an infection, which is why prevention is important. Experts repeatedly advise us not to underestimate the dangers of common flu in all the headlines and to rather focus on general infection prevention.

How is the coronavirus (COVID-19) transmitted?

The coronavirus (COVID-19, also Sars-CoV-2) is a related virus strain of the respiratory infections SARS and MERS, which have appeared increasingly in recent years and has been spreading worldwide since 2019. Experts have so far observed that corona, like other respiratory infections, spreads particularly via droplet infection. It is particularly contagious and can also be transmitted while speaking. It is assumed that Corona also survives on surfaces and is therefore transferable by smear infection.

Are pregnant women more susceptible to the coronavirus?

So far there are no studies to prove this. However, pregnant women are generally more susceptible to infections such as colds, respiratory infections, and the flu. This is because the immune response screws down slightly to maintain pregnancy. At the same time, other processes are in full swing and physical changes such as swollen mucous membranes additionally favor respiratory infections.

For this reason, pregnant women should take special care. Because experience with related virus strains has shown that infections during pregnancy pose particular risks. The professional association of gynecologists expressly advises that you still get the flu to avoid infection with both diseases.

What are the risks of being infected with the coronavirus during pregnancy?

So far, it has been observed that corona is usually relatively mild during pregnancy. The worst cases occurred in non-pregnant people who had severe pre-existing conditions. Viral and respiratory infections in general are more severe during pregnancy. And studies show that a strong cough, pneumonia and high fever can quickly become dangerous for both mother and baby. They can also lead to premature births more often . Especially in the first trimester, a miscarriage can also be expected with a high fever.

In worldwide cases of related, previously more severe SARS and MERS infections, the risk for mother and baby was greatly increased. Many infected pregnant women suffered from miscarriages and stillbirths.

Can I transmit the COVID-19 to my baby?

So far, it has been observed that corona is primarily transmitted via body fluids such as saliva, secretions, and blood. Although there are no studies that rule out transmission to the baby through the umbilical cord and amniotic fluid, there are empirical values ​​that so far speak against it. In a small study in Wuhan, for example, no infection could be observed in the newborns whose mothers were infected with a corona in the third trimester.

All babies were born by Caesarean section and were isolated from their mothers as a precaution after birth. So far it is unclear what effect an infection can have in the first and second trimester. There are also no conclusions as to whether vaginal delivery is just as safe since contact with body fluids is much less during Caesarean sections. Therefore, if an infection is suspected, at least one caesarean section will be considered. The virus has so far not been detected in breast milk samples.

What are the risks of the coronavirus for babies?

It has not yet been proven whether there are long-term consequences of an infection in the mother. In general, a long illness of the mother during pregnancy can affect the birth weight and development of the baby. All newborns in the Wuhan study had impairments. However, doctors assume that these are due to other factors.

However, since pregnant women do not belong to the risk group for the infection and this is usually mild even during pregnancy, doctors see no greater risk for the baby here. It is important to avoid infection after birth as long as the mother is infected. And that you give birth to your baby in a clinic where continuous monitoring during childbirth and the close care of the newborn is possible, possibly with intensive care measures. If an infection is suspected or confirmed, home births and deliveries in the birthing center are therefore strictly discouraged.

What are the typical symptoms of the coronavirus?

The following symptoms were observed with the new strand of coronavirus:

  • Sore throat and pain
  • to cough
  • fever
  • diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath

A corona infection is similar to other respiratory infections and viral infections at the time of the flu. In severe cases, pneumonia can occur, which is usually the case with severe previous illnesses.

How can I prevent coronavirus infection?

protection from covid-19

Good hygiene is the best way to avoid infection with corona. Doctors repeatedly emphasize that this is important anyway in view of the flu wave – especially during pregnancy. Otherwise, there are currently no other recommendations for pregnant women than for the rest of the population. Here are the most important measures to prevent corona infection:

  • Regular hand washing with warm water and soap, especially after staying in public facilities, before and after eating, after touching doorknobs, elevator buttons, etc.
  • Avoid public transport. If necessary, avoid touching handrails, buttons and door handles or wear gloves.
  • A hand sanitizer is good, but not a replacement for frequent hand washing.
  • Avoid physical contact during greetings etc.
  • Good hygiene when coughing and sneezing: cough and sneeze in the crook of the arm. This not only prevents you from infecting others. You also face yourself less.
  • Keep 1 to 2 m away from sick people.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Avoid medical practices when there is no urgent need for medical care or prenatal care.

What to do if I suspect coronavirus infection?

Here the doctors agree: First of all, keep calm. If you suspect the coronavirus, it is particularly important to avoid contact with the public. So the recommendation to contact the family doctor, gynecologist or the emergency room by phone still applies. Under no circumstances simply go into practice, because this way the virus can spread in a matter of seconds. 

The doctor will consider a home visit and what to do based on symptoms and history. If you have mild symptoms, self-isolation and treatment are sufficient even during pregnancy. In the meantime, it is important that you avoid close contact with your family members and the outside world. 

Important: If you are going into labor during this time, call a midwife, gynecologist or delivery room before you have an exam.

Can I infect my toddler with coronavirus?

Based on previous experience, pediatricians assume that coronavirus affects children less often. In the case of contagion, it was usually milder than that of adults. Nevertheless, you can infect your kids with Corona, because they can also pass on the virus without symptoms. It is therefore important to pay particular attention to good hygiene here and to strictly adhere to all communicated preventive measures. 

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