OBGYN says virus threat low to pregnant women

JACKSON — The University of Mississippi Medical Center is working to keep its patients safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes pregnant patients and newborns.

The good news is that compared to other viral infections, COVID-19 does not appear to cause an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or birth defects, says Dr. Marty Tucker, professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UMMC.

“Additionally, if a pregnant woman or her newborn baby contracts COVID-19, it appears that the chance of severe illness is low,” Tucker said.

However, regardless of pregnancy, all people should limit their risk of COVID-19 exposure in order to protect themselves and others around them.

“We all need to follow the recommendations given to us by public health agencies, our government authorities and our employers,” Tucker said. “Follow the advice from your doctors and health care providers.”

This includes social distancing, avoiding travel, avoiding contact with people who are or may be infected, and being vigilant of symptoms of COVID-19 infection, such as fever, shortness of breath, sore throat and cough.

Below, Tucker answers COVID-19 questions based on March 2020 guidance from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Note that these recommendations are based on current knowledge and experiences during the pandemic. As more data regarding COVID-19 emerges, this advice may change.

“In some instances, this guidance is not black and white. These recommendations may change on a daily basis,” Tucker said. “We will be following the evolution of these recommendations and provide updates accordingly.”

Q. I am pregnant. Am I at higher risk of contracting COVID-19?

A. No. Pregnancy does change your immune system, making you more susceptible to some viral respiratory infections. However, based on limited data so far, pregnancy does not make someone more susceptible to COVID-19.

Q. How might coronavirus affect my pregnancy?

A. The data from the present COVID-19 pandemic is limited. In previous data, women with other non-COVID-19 coronavirus infections do not show increased rates of miscarriage or stillbirth.

Other viral infections during pregnancy, such as influenza, have been associated with low birth weight and preterm birth. Having a high fever early in pregnancy may also increase the risk of certain birth defects. Currently, we do not know if COVID-19 has a similar effect.

Q. Can I transmit COVID-19 to my baby during pregnancy or delivery?

A. No. The few case studies of babies born to mothers with COVID-19 published in peer-reviewed literature showed that none of the infants tested positive for COVID-19. There have been no reports of mother-to-baby transmission for other coronaviruses. Additionally, no virus has been detected in amniotic fluid or breast milk samples.

There have been reports of newborns as young as a few days old with COVID-19 infection, suggesting that a mother can transmit infection to her infant through close contact after birth.

Q. Is it safe for me to deliver at a hospital where there have been COVID-19 cases?

A. Yes. Hospitals are taking great precautions to keep patients and health care providers safe. 

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