Pregnancy during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a subject moms-to-be have been thinking about quite a bit. “What are my risks, what are the risks for my newborn” and other questions are top-of-mind right now.
Being pregnant, especially for first-time moms, is already pretty stressful, but adding a pandemic on top of it may just place more anxiety on a mother during pregnancy. Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most infants, which is why answers to questions regarding pregnancy and COVID-19 are important.
The CDC has released information about pregnancy and breastfeeding in relation to the Coronavirus disease.
What are my risks of getting Coronavirus during pregnancy?
According to the CDC as of 3/23/2020 when this post was created, it is not known if pregnant women have a greater risk of becoming sick with COVID-19. It is also not known if they are at risk of having a serious illness because of the virus. Influenza and other viral respiratory illnesses come from the same family as COVID-19, so it is always recommended during pregnancy that protect yourself as best as you can from any illness.
In February 2020, The Lancet published a study online that consisted of nine women who were pregnant in their third trimester in Wuhan, China. The findings were as follows:
All nine patients had a caesarean section in their third trimester. Seven patients presented with a fever. Other symptoms, including cough (in four of nine patients), myalgia (in three), sore throat (in two), and malaise (in two), were also observed. Fetal distress was monitored in two cases. Five of nine patients had lymphopenia (<1·0 × 10⁹ cells per L). Three patients had increased aminotransferase concentrations. None of the patients developed severe COVID-19 pneumonia or died, as of Feb 4, 2020. Nine livebirths were recorded. No neonatal asphyxia was observed in newborn babies. All nine livebirths had a 1-min Apgar score of 8–9 and a 5-min Apgar score of 9–10. Amniotic fluid, cord blood, neonatal throat swab, and breastmilk samples from six patients were tested for SARS-CoV-2, and all samples tested negative for the virus.
None of these pregnant women developed a severe illness and in fact, all of their babies were born healthy. The data is still evolving and is being monitored closely.
The CDC states that “We do not know at this time if COVID-19 would cause problems during pregnancy or affect the health of the baby after birth.”
How can I as a pregnant woman protect myself from COVID-19?
The CDC recommends that you take the same precautions everyone else is told to take in order to avoid an infection. This means to follow what you have been hearing up to this point, such as avoiding large crowds, keeping a 6-foot distance from people, clean hands often, etc.
You can find our COVID-19 page here for more information.
Can COVID-19 be transmitted through breastmilk?
There are still a lot of unknowns surrounding this Coronavirus. This includes via breastmilk. According to the CDC, they have “no specific guidance for breastfeeding during infection with similar viruses like SARS-CoV or Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV).”
One thing that is known is that the flu doesn’t transmit through breastmilk. It is a person-to-person transmission through sneezing, coughing, speaking closely, or touching your face after touching a surface or object with the virus on it.
If you are expressing milk through a breast pump, whether it’s manual or electric, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after touching the pump and all parts of the bottle and mechanism. You can find the guidelines for keeping a breast pump clean here.
Call your provider if you have questions remaining about pregnancy and COVID-19.