COVID-19 FAQs: Are pregnant women ‘high risk’?

Use caution while pregnant or caring for newborns, says Sanford Health OB/GYN

Dr. Amy Kelley headshot

Doctors and medical researchers are still learning about the effects of this new virus on pregnancy.

Interim guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released March 16 address coronavirus and pregnancy, breastfeeding and potential risks to mom or baby. Recommendations from the CDC and Sanford Health say pregnant women are not considered to be at high risk for COVID-19, but they should still take precautions not to get sick.

Dr. Amy Kelley, an OB/GYN with Sanford Women’s in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, says there just isn’t a lot of data right now.

“What we do know is viruses similar to COVID-19 do hit pregnant women harder, and pregnant women do have a higher risk of more issues and complications from other viruses that are similar,” Dr. Kelley told Sanford Health News.

Sanford maternal-fetal medicine specialist Peter Van Eerden, M.D., concentrates on high-risk pregnancies and prenatal ultrasounds in Fargo, North Dakota.

He says there is no data to suggest this virus will make pregnant women sicker, which could be reassuring for many women. Women in health care can still work, following the same guidelines as women who aren’t pregnant.

“Women who are working in a hospital setting and pregnant might not want to take care of a patient who is positive for COVID-19 or has an actual infection,” Dr. Van Eerden said.

Impact on babies and breast milk

According to the CDC and its limited findings, there have been a small number of reported problems such as preterm delivery when mothers have tested positive for COVID-19 during their pregnancy. However, it isn’t clear if the outcomes were related to maternal infection.

COVID-19 is spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets, so take care when in close contact with others such as during breastfeeding.

Limited studies show the virus has not been detected in breast milk but that’s not to say if it can’t be transmitted that way. The CDC will update these considerations as more information becomes available.

What pregnant women can do

Regardless, both doctors suggest women use an abundance of caution whether pregnant or caring for a newborn at home like covering your coughs and sneezes, practicing increased hand-washing and avoiding others who may be experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms. As with any concerns, women are encouraged to contact their OB/GYN or health care provider.

“We’re trying to disseminate as much information as we can to all people taking care of women who are pregnant right now or have young children,” she said.

Dr. Kelley encourages women to stay home if they’re not feeling well. They should consider calling if they experience more concerning symptoms, such as shortness of breath or an uncontrollable fever.

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Posted In Coronavirus, Frequently Asked Questions, News, Pregnancy, Women's

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