Coronavirus Update:What patients and families need to know
FAQs About Pregnancy and Coronavirus (COVID-19)
We understand that you may have questions about how coronavirus impacts your pregnancy. Read our frequently asked questions, which cover concerns about getting pregnant or being pregnant during COVID-19, as well as how the virus may affect infants.
Does COVID-19 affect the fetus?
There have not been reports of affects to the fetus during pregnancy directly from the SARS CoV-2 virus, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Illness during pregnancy that causes a high fever, breathing problems or problems with blood pressure can affect the pregnancy and are important reasons for close evaluation by maternal obstetric providers. If you have COVID-19 during your pregnancy, your doctor may want to evaluate you more often throughout the rest of the pregnancy. At Children’s National Hospital, we can use advanced fetal imaging (magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound) to assess the health of the fetus and newborn.
How does COVID-19 affect a pregnancy? Does it put the mother at higher risk? Does it put the fetus at higher risk?
A woman’s immune system can be different during pregnancy, but it has not been shown that a pregnant woman is at higher risk for getting the virus or from having symptoms of the virus. However, similar to what is seen in the general population, a person’s overall health can affect their risk of having more problems from COVID-19. In a recent report from New York, the majority of pregnant women with COVID-19 did not have symptoms of the virus (Sutton D et al, NEJM, 4/13/20). In some cases, if a woman has significant symptoms of COVID-19 and depending upon the gestational age of her baby, a decision to deliver the baby earlier may be made by a woman’s doctor.
While the fetus appears to be protected from the virus, we do not know if there are any long term effects to the baby. We feel that it is important to follow infants closely for their neurodevelopmental milestones if a mother had COVID-19 during pregnancy. We follow neurodevelopment in our Postnatal Neurology Clinic for children born following any type of congenital infection. The Congenital Infection Program at Children’s National is led by Roberta L. DeBiasi, M.D., M.S., and Sarah Mulkey, M.D.
Is this a safe time to get pregnant?
This is generally felt to be a safe time to conceive as we have not seen evidence of direct effects to the fetus. Unlike the Zika virus, the SARS CoV-2 virus (COVID-19) does not travel into the placenta and into the fetus to cause an infection in the baby or birth defects. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is a stressful time in general and stress can affect a woman’s pregnancy.
Should we delay getting pregnant until a vaccine is developed?
A vaccine will help prevent the COVID-19 infection during pregnancy. Development and availability of the vaccine may take several years and depending upon your family planning you may or may not want to wait to conceive. Since we do not know that the SARS CoV-2 virus (COVID-19) infects the baby, it is acceptable to get pregnant during this time. However, as we continue to learn more about COVID-19 this information may change.
How does COVID-19 impact prenatal care visits?
It is important to monitor your pregnancy for maternal health and overall growth and health of the baby, just like before the COVID-19 pandemic. Some prenatal care can be done by telehealth approaches while other types of care will require you to go into a clinic or hospital. You should not delay starting prenatal care or avoid follow-up prenatal appointments because of COVID-19. We know that prenatal care is important for the health of the mother and baby and so this should be continued. Individual doctors’ offices and providers may have special ways in which they are providing care during this time.
At Children’s National, we are continuing to provide our exceptional level of prenatal pediatrics care with advanced fetal imaging (magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound) and multi-disciplinary pediatric specialty consultations. Women receive imaging at the radiology suite in the hospital and then can return home for telehealth multi-specialty consultations.
Are there any special medications or precautions to take prior to getting pregnant during the pandemic?
There are no special medications or precautions to take prior to getting pregnant during the COVID-19 pandemic. As for any woman of childbearing age, we recommend a prenatal vitamin with folic acid. It is important to take good care of yourself by eating a healthy diet, exercising and getting proper sleep. We recommend following the instruction of your maternal obstetric medical provider.
Do infants have a higher risk during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Any age group can be affected by COVID-19. In the pediatric age group, infants seem to be more affected than older children (MMWR 4/6/20). Infants can become sick more quickly and so it is important to bring your infant to their doctor or the emergency room right away if you feel they are having symptoms of COVID-19. The most common symptoms in children are fever, cough and shortness of breath.