There is plenty of good news about the COVID-19 pandemic including increasing vaccination rates, re-opening of schools and businesses, and declining deaths and hospitalizations from the disease. However, risks still remain.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified women who are pregnant or breastfeeding as among those who are more likely to become severely ill from COVID-19.
To help pregnant women and new moms stay safe, here is some COVID-19 guidance regarding pregnancy, breastfeeding, and newborn care.
If you have questions about your individual situation, talk with your health care provider.
Increased risk for pregnant women
Based on what we know at this time, pregnant women are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and death, compared with nonpregnant women. Additionally, pregnant women with COVID-19 might be at an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth.
It’s especially important for pregnant women, and those who live with them, to protect themselves from COVID-19. The best way to protect against and reduce the spread of COVID-19 is to:
Limit interactions with people who might have been exposed to or who might be infected with COVID-19, including those within your household.
Wear a mask and avoid people who are not wearing masks.
Stay at least six feet away from others outside your household.
Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are unavailable.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, get in touch with your health care provider within 24 hours, and follow steps for when you feel sick. If you have COVID-19 emergency warning signs (e.g., trouble breathing, persistent chest pain, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, bluish lips or face), call 911 and seek emergency care immediately. Contact your health care provider if you think you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Consider the following tips to stay healthy during your pregnancy:
Keep all of your health care appointments during and after pregnancy.
Get recommended vaccines, including those for influenza and whooping cough.
Keep at least a 30-day supply of prescription and nonprescription medicines to reduce trips to the pharmacy.
Do not delay getting emergency care because of COVID-19.
Mothers caring for a newborn
While much is still unknown about the risks facing newborns born to mothers with COVID-19, we do know that:
COVID-19 is uncommon in newborns born to mothers who had COVID-19 during pregnancy.
Some newborns have tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after birth. It is unknown if these newborns got the virus before, during, or after birth.
Most newborns who tested positive for COVID-19 had mild or no symptoms and recovered.
The CDC has provided recommendations for caring for your newborn if you are in isolation for COVID-19. Consider the following precautions until your isolation period has ended:
Stay home to separate yourself from others outside your household.
Stay away from other household members who are not infected, and wear a mask in shared spaces.
Have a healthy caregiver, who is not at increased risk for severe illness, take care of your newborn. If a healthy caregiver is not available, you can care for your newborn if you are feeling well enough.
Once your isolation period has ended, you should still wash your hands before caring for your newborn, but you don’t need to take other precautions. You likely won’t pass the virus to your newborn or any other close contacts after your isolation period has ended.
Additionally, do not put a face shield or mask on children younger than two years old. A face shield could increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, accidental suffocation and strangulation. Babies move around often and their movement can cause a plastic face shield to block their nose and mouth, or cause the strap to strangle them.
Additionally, the CDC recommends the following care tips:
Limit visitors to see your new baby.
Bring your baby to the doctor for newborn visits.
Tips for breastfeeding women
Current evidence suggests that breast milk is not likely to spread COVID-19 to babies. You and your health care provider should decide whether and how to start or continue breastfeeding.
If you have COVID-19 and will breastfeed:
Wash your hands before breastfeeding.
Wear a mask while breastfeeding and whenever you are within six feet of your baby.
If you have COVID-19 and will express breast milk:
Use your own breast pump and do not share it with anyone else.
Wear a mask during expression.
Wash your hands before touching any pump or bottle parts, and before expressing milk.
Follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use. Clean all parts of the pump that come into contact with breast milk.
Consider having a healthy caregiver feed the expressed breast milk to the baby. Any caregiver should wear a mask when caring for the baby for the entire time you are in isolation. The caregiver should continue to wear a mask and quarantine themselves after you complete isolation.
Vaccines for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
Any of the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines can be offered to women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have questions about getting vaccinated or have a history of severe allergic reaction to any other vaccine or injectable therapy.
Based on how these vaccines work in the body, experts believe they are unlikely to pose a specific risk for people who are pregnant. However, there is currently limited data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people. Clinical trials that look at the safety and how well the COVID-19 vaccines work in pregnant people are underway or planned. Vaccine manufacturers are also monitoring data from people in the clinical trials who received a vaccine and became pregnant. Studies in animals receiving a Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, or Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (J&J/Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine before or during pregnancy found no safety concerns.
Side effects can occur after receiving any of the available COVID-19 vaccines, especially after the second dose for those that require two doses. Pregnant people have not reported different side effects from non-pregnant people after vaccination with mRNA vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines). If you experience fever following vaccination you should take acetaminophen because fever has been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes. If you have an allergic reaction after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy, you can receive treatment for it.
Researchers receintly found that pregnant and breastfeeding women who receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine show a “robust immune response” and may pass protective antibodies to their babies through umbilical cord blood and break milk. This suggests that babies do get immunity from their vaccinated mothers but it is unknown how long the protection will last. The study also found that side effects after vaccination were rare and comparable across the study participants.
Planning a pregnancy
If you are trying to become pregnant now or want to get pregnant in the future, you may receive a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available to you.
There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems. The CDC does not recommend routine pregnancy testing before a COVID-19 vaccination. If you are trying to become pregnant, you do not need to avoid pregnancy after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
Importance of self-care
It is imperative to ensure your own social, emotional and mental health, especially when pregnant. Learn about ways to cope with stress and tips for caring for yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, contact your health care provider.
If you’re working remotely and feeling burnt out, here are strategies to reduce your overall stress.
Reported with permission from GTM (www.gtm.com)