At BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre we hear questions like, "Could the virus harm my baby?" "Could it harm me?"
"International evidence seems to show pregnant women with COVID-19 have a low overall risk of becoming severely ill," says BC Women's Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Chelsea Elwood. "Though most disease in pregnant women is mild, early Canadian data has shown pregnant women with COVID-19 seem to have an increased risk of being hospitalized and being admitted to intensive care units."
COVID-19 is also associated with an increase in preterm births (before the 37th week of pregnancy) in Canada.
Most babies born to women with COVID-19 are not admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit, and transmission to babies is exceedingly rare.
COVID-19 is a viral disease, but so far, research shows pregnant women are not more susceptible than the rest of the public.
Pregnant women with symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested as per the latest recommendations from the BCCDC. Public COVID-19 testing sites can be found here.
If you are pregnant and waiting for COVID-19 test results, seek urgent care if you experience one of the following changes in your health:
- If it becomes harder to breathe
- If you can't drink anything
- If you feel very unwell
- If you show signs of going into labour
If a woman develops COVID-19 at any time in pregnancy, they need evaluation and enhanced fetal surveillance. Your health and well being is paramount to the health of your baby and you will be cared for even if you have COVID-19. You will likely have extra ultrasounds during your pregnancy.
During labour, we recommend a hospital delivery and continuous electronic fetal monitoring during labour to assess your baby's well-being. Our aim will be to keep you and baby together after birth. Skin-to-skin contact, delayed cord clamping and breastfeeding are considered safe at this time.
We also hear the question, "Can my partner or doula even be there for the birth?"
"That's a popular question I get in my office," says Elwood. "We're very patient and family centred. We support having one support person in the labour room, plus a doula in their care team, because we think that's a hugely important part of the birth process."
If you are seeking care at BC Women's during the pandemic, information about accessible entrances, visitor restrictions and measures we have in place to keep you safe are available on the BC Women's COVID-19 web page.
To protect yourself and your baby while in hospital and after you go home, the most important thing you can do to prevent COVID-19 and other illnesses is to clean your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. If you feel sick, wear a mask, especially while breastfeeding. Stay home as much as possible and if you must go out in public, keep yourself and your baby two metres from others.
"Those physical distancing measures that are in place, are actually quite beneficial for newborns," says Elwood. "Those are similar practices we recommended pre-COVID, including frequent hand-washing and not going to gatherings with newborns."
For more information, including on the importance of prenatal appointments, please see the BC Women's COVID-19 web page.
Or find more information on the BCCDC website: http://www.bccdc.ca/Health-Professionals-Site/Documents/COVID19_AntenatalVisitsDuringPandemic.pdf.