Coronavirus: How worried should pregnant women be about Covid-19?

Health officials on Tuesday said the UK will see “many thousands” of people contract Covid-19 with the government considering plans to ask even mildly sick people to stay at home.

There are now more than 115,000 cases of coronavirus worldwide.

The UK has so far had 373 cases officially confirmed, while six people in the country have died after contracting the virus.

The start of the coronavirus “peak” is expected to be in the next 10 to 14 days according to Dr Jenny Harries, England’s deputy chief medical officer.

Dr Harries has said the vast majority of those diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK are “pretty well” but that they may “feel a bit rough for a few days”.

Covid-19 shares many of the same symptoms as the winter flu, and it appears that cases are most serious in the elderly and those living with existing health conditions, particularly respiratory problems.

But with hospitals up and down the country preparing for a spike in cases as the virus spreads, it is understandable that women are concerned about the potential threat posed to them and their baby.

On Tuesday the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists issued guidance for pregnant mothers explaining the risk and how it can be mitigated.

Are pregnant women more likely to catch coronavirus?

The RCOG says pregnant women do not appear to be more susceptible to the virus than the rest of the public, although at this point the data available is limited.

There is also no evidence which suggests that Covid-19 increases the risk of miscarriage or early pregnancy loss. 

“ It is expected the large majority of pregnant women will experience only mild or moderate cold/flu like symptoms,” says the RCOG.

 There are no reported deaths of pregnant women from coronavirus at the moment.

Can coronavirus be passed to your baby?

Dr Edward Morris, President of the RCOG, said: “While the data is currently limited it is reassuring that there is no evidence that the virus can pass to a baby during pregnancy.

“It is therefore considered unlikely that if you have the virus it will cause abnormalities in your baby.”

But he did add that guidance will be kept under regular review as new evidence emerges.

Some babies born to women with symptoms of coronavirus in China have been born prematurely. It is unclear whether coronavirus caused this or the doctors made the decision for the baby to be born early because the woman was unwell. 

Is it safe to breastfeed?

At present, there is no evidence that the virus can be carried in breast milk, so it is felt the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of coronavirus through breast milk.

Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “I would also advise women to speak to their midwife who will be able to keep them informed and tailor their care around their local situation.”

If a pregnant woman infected with Covid-19 gives birth will she be separated from her baby?

On the current information available, medics say there is no evidence to suggest that separating a baby from an infected mother will be helpful. Instead, this could cause significant distress for the mum and baby.

Professor Russell Viner, President of The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “The situation is now developing very quickly and this guidance is based on a thorough review of the evidence – limited though that is.

“Based on current evidence, we don’t believe that babies born to women who test positive for coronavirus should be separated.

“The impact of this separation, even as a precaution, can be significant on both the baby and the mother. We will review this recommendation as we see more evidence in the weeks and months ahead.”

How can pregnant women protect against getting Covid-19?

The RCOG says: “The most important thing to do is to wash your hands regularly and effectively as soon as you come from public places to your home or workplace.”

Public Health England and the World Health Organisation continue to advise the best way to avoid contracting coronavirus are to wash your hands regularly, get a flu jab and avoid contact with people who are unwell.

What should pregnant women do if they think they might have coronavirus?

The RCOG says: “You should phone NHS 111 or use the NHS’s 111 online tool for further advice, and say you are pregnant.”

At the current time, if you need a test for coronavirus, you will be advised to self-isolate and diagnostic swabs will be arranged. You will be tested in the same way as anyone being tested, regardless of the fact that you are pregnant.

Pregnant women who have been advised to self-isolate should stay indoors and avoid contact with others for 14 days.

Pregnant women who are due to attend routine maternity appointments in the UK should contact their maternity care provider, to inform them that they are currently in self-isolation for possible/confirmed COVID-19, and request advice on attendance.

They are also advised not to attend maternity triage units or A&E unless in need of urgent obstetric or medical care.

If women are concerned and require urgent medical advice, they are encouraged to call the maternity triage unit in the first instance.

If attendance at the maternity unit or hospital is advised, pregnant women are requested to travel by private transport and alert the maternity triage reception once on the premises, prior to entering the hospital.

PHE advice states that anyone who is feeling unwell and has recognised symptoms of Covid-19 should contact NHS 111 and seek further assistance.

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