COVID & Pregnancy: What New Parents Need to Know
Jul 20, 2020 Cedars-Sinai Staff
Pregnancy and childbirth are precious times in the life of any new parent. They're also some of the most vulnerable.
So when new health concerns emerge, such as COVID-19, it can be overwhelming to figure out how to keep both you and your baby healthy. Public health outbreaks make it all the more critical to stay on top of your pregnancy and take precautions, according to maternal health experts.
"At the start of this, people were looking for some sort of miracle treatment or process to prevent COVID-19, and it's as simple as hand-washing, don't touch your face, eyes and mouths, and maintain a physical distance."
We spoke to Kathleen Burgner, a registered nurse in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at Cedars-Sinai, to help explain what new parents need to know amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Kathleen coordinates education programs for patients, including prenatal classes for parents and significant others.
COVID-19 concerns for pregnant women
Pregnant women might be more likely to develop serious illness if infected with COVID-19, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), although more studies are needed. While additional information is emerging, the CDC found that pregnancy was linked to higher rates of hospitalization, intensive care admission and ventilators compared to other reproductive-age women.
More than 10,530 pregnant women had the virus between January 22 and June 30, according to the CDC; 3,077 were hospitalized, and 30 died. The new research also suggests Hispanic/Latin and Black pregnant women are at higher risk.
Take prevention seriously
Kathleen advises new parents to pay close attention to CDC recommendations and follow them carefully. Pregnant women should limit contact with other people as much as possible and weigh risks before going anywhere.
Caution doesn't have to be complicated, Kathleen says. In general, you should be following practices to reduce exposure to COVID-19, such as frequent hand-washing, wearing a cloth face covering in public and physical distancing. Avoid places where these measures would be hard to follow.
"At the start of this, people were looking for some sort of miracle treatment or process to prevent COVID-19, and it's as simple as hand-washing, don't touch your face, eyes and mouth, and maintain a physical distance," she says.
When bringing your child home, remember that infants also have weaker immune systems, and follow discharge instructions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your home—including avoiding sharing household items, Kathleen says.
Also, make sure you're staying healthy in other ways such as by eating nutritious, balanced meals, she suggests.
Keep up with your care plan
Don't skip prenatal or postpartum care appointments, including vaccines, Kathleen stresses. These are crucial to maintaining your child's health.
Ask your doctor how their office is working to keep patients safe. Then share concerns and develop your own care plan with them.
Kathleen notes healthcare providers have rearranged care to adapt to the pandemic, including health screening upon arrival, limiting the amount of people on-site and providing more online appointments.
At Cedars-Sinai, the OB-GYN Department moved maternity tours and parental education online and continues to update its visitor policy. The hospital is providing mandatory masks, hand sanitation and temperature checks for everyone, among other measures. Patients who test positive for COVID-19 are also isolated in a separate unit.
Lookout for changes
Researchers are still studying how COVID-19 affects pregnancy, delivery and newborns, and the science is constantly evolving. It's important for parents to stay current and pay attention to any findings that could affect their health and the health of their family, Kathleen says.
She also notes that most serious COVID-19 cases have been in older adults, with infected newborns and children generally experiencing mild or no symptoms, according to the CDC.
"Patients can be vigilant, but they don't have to be afraid," Kathleen says.
Be sure to stay in close contact with your doctor, who can help keep you and your baby safe and communicate any new developments. Don't delay care, and instead continue to contact your healthcare provider as you would during any other time.
"This is what the recommendations are right now," Kathleen says, "But they may change tomorrow."