Pregnancy and coronavirus: Here’s what to know
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many expectant parents are having to adapt to a raft of unexpected changes.
Expecting a baby is usually a joyous time for parents-to-be and their family and friends.
But with the coronavirus pandemic now affecting lives globally, childbirth educator Lael Stone says many pregnant women are feeling concerned at the moment.
“There is a great deal of fear and anxiety around for pregnant women,” says Lael, co-founder of online childbirth education program About Birth.
“Not only regarding their pre and postnatal care, but also in regards to accessing services that give them support, information and knowledge.”
Here’s our guide to some of the key questions pregnant women and their partners may have:
Are pregnant women more at risk from coronavirus?
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president Vijay Roach says while pregnant women should be considered a vulnerable group, there is no indication at this time that they become more severely unwell if they develop COVID-19 infection than the general population.
“It is expected that the large majority of pregnant women will experience only mild or moderate cold/flu symptoms,” Dr Roach says.
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Can coronavirus affect unborn or newborn babies?
There is no evidence to suggest an increased risk of miscarriage with COVD-19, and there have been only a handful of very recent cases suggesting the virus may pass from the mother to the baby.
“However, this is preliminary data and has not been confirmed,” Dr Roach says. “There was no evidence of harm to the babies. Women should remain reassured that there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 will harm your baby or cause abnormalities.”
How should pregnant women protect themselves and their babies?
Pregnant women should still exercise caution, as there is only limited information regarding the impact of COVID-19 infection on pregnant women and their babies.
The best option is to stay at home as much as possible.
Dr Roach advises pregnant women to avoid all non-essential travel and public places.
If you are heading out, take preventative measures such as thorough hand washing, avoiding touching your face, social distancing and steering clear of anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
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Are prenatal appointments and births affected by coronavirus?
Many hospitals and GP clinics have implemented new guidelines regarding patients, their partners and family members attending prenatal appointments.
It is best to check directly with your GP, midwife or obstetrician whether they have any new protocols in place regarding who may attend appointments.
Some limits have been placed on the number of people allowed at certain appointments and many prenatal educational classes have also been cancelled.
As a result, many medical professionals are now offering telehealth appointments so some consultations can be done via video calls.
While many hospitals have restricted visitors to one person a day after a woman has given birth, there are currently no plans to stop women having a support person with them during the birth.
“The College supports World Health Organisation recommendations that a chosen support person should be able to accompany a woman giving birth,” Dr Roach says.
Dr Roach also recommends the safest place to give birth is at a hospital, “where you have access to highly trained staff and emergency facilities”.
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Where to find online prenatal sessions
Instead of attending educational classes, Lael says online learning is an alternative.
About Birth is a six-part online antenatal course that covers topics such as the stages of labour, breathing techniques and breastfeeding advice.
“We encourage couples to watch our program together so they both hear all the information and have the opportunity to discuss what they are learning and what kind of support the birthing woman needs,” she says.
Midwife Cath Curtin is also running free and live webinar sessions for expectant parents on the Tummy Talks site.
“I also provide Skype and phone consultations and can help new parents with information and support around feeding, baby’s sleep and routines,” Cath says.
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Pregnancy, coronavirus and looking after your mental health
Understandably, pregnant women may be feeling anxious. Cath suggests women keep in contact with their obstetrician, GP or midwife and listen to their advice.
“Mindfulness podcasts are really helpful and I suggest listening to them daily,” she says.
“It is so important pregnant women rest during this time. Taking a walk once a day is also important.”
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Lael says if you are struggling, it is important to reach out to a mental health professional.
She also suggests joining online communities and forums to connect to other women.
Sunrise TV host Edwina Bartholomew, herself a new mother, recently started an online forum for expectant mothers and other new mums on social media called Stay Home Mums.
“Having the opportunity to speak with other women who are also going through this can help, and inviting family and friends to check in regularly can also help women not feel so isolated,” Lael says.
Pregnant women should also maintain a healthy diet and exercise such as pilates, yoga and gentle stretching.
While hibernating during the pregnancy may not have been what plenty of women thought they would be doing, Lael adds this could be a really special bonding time for expectant parents.
“We often live in very busy worlds and sometimes don’t have the time to prepare mentally and physically for birth and parenthood, so this enforced time at home may give couples a slower pace in which to prepare for this wonderful new part of their lives,” she says.
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Essential coronavirus information
If you are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, call the 24/7 hotline on 1800 675 398. You can also use the Healthdirect symptom checker.
Instant Consult offers on-the-spot online GP consultations and can issue medical certificates, prescriptions, radiology and pathology requests and specialist referrals.
For the latest official health and government advice, visit:
- World Health Organisation
- Australian Government coronavirus updates
- Federal and state/territory government sites:
Written by Erin Miller.