Pregnancy and COVID-19

Read about ACOG advisories for pregnant women during the pandemic.

It would be reasonable to say that no part of our lives has escaped the impact of COVID-19. The day-to-day, sometimes hour-to-hour updates of dreadful statistics, the impact of social distancing, and the economic toll has been swift and unrelenting. As healthcare providers and hospitals do their best to respond to the immediate needs of patients afflicted with the worst symptoms, researchers and health organizations work to come up with various testing, treatments, and hopefully vaccinations to mitigate the spread of this devastating pandemic. Every medical association is trying to refine the lens though which they view this disease.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which is the primary professional membership organization of women's healthcare physicians, has undertaken the task of making recommendations to its membership about the latest recommendation about COVID-19 during pregnancy. Practice advisories are disseminated to keep physicians aware of the latest statistics and analyses of protocols.

At this writing, the latest advisory dated April 23, 2020, discusses several points which healthcare providers should consider for the care and treatment of pregnant women. This information is updated as new pertinent information becomes available and ACOG has also created a Frequently Asked Questions for Obstetrician-Gynecologists to supplement the Practice Advisory.

The advisory deals with many topics germane to treating pregnant patients. Some highlights include discussing testing, risk to patients, healthcare inequities, and the use of personal protective equipment recommendations for healthcare providers. An important key piece of the advisory is ACOG's patient resources, which providers are encouraged to share with patients.

Patients who are interested can view the information and recommendations at www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/pregnancy/coronavirus-pregnancy-and-breastfeeding. There are over 20 topics, and many reiterate the CDC guidelines for everyone. Some are particular to women who are currently pregnant and anticipating labor and delivery. Additionally, topics about mother-to-baby transmission and breastfeeding are outlined. Resources and a glossary of terms makes this website particularly useful.

Highlights include definition of COVID-19 as a novel respiratory illness caused by a new coronavirus with symptoms such as fever, cough, and difficulty breathing and sometimes stomach problems like nausea, diarrhea, and possibly loss of taste or smell that can last up to several weeks. Current medical literature does not show that pregnant women are more susceptible to COVID-19 than the general population.

At this time, there are not enough statistics to tell how COVID-19 might affect a fetus. Some reports show that some pregnant women with COVID-19 have had pre-term births, but no causality has been demonstrated.

Pregnant women should follow all the guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control for the entire population to include: frequent hand-washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and use of hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol when soap and water is not available, avoiding touching your face, social distancing when possible to include spacing at least 6 feet apart from other individuals when out in public spaces. The site recommends the use of cloth facemasks when out in public spaces and references a CDC site on tips for mask making and proper wearing of masks.

The site recommends contacting your healthcare provider to discuss specifics details such as current prenatal visits schedule and possibly adjusting your appointments or transitioning to telemedicine visits if this is deemed appropriate. Your healthcare provider will also discuss any hospital policies pertaining to delivery and postpartum visitors as well as procedures in place if you are symptomatic or present with COVID-19.

Breastfeeding guidelines are discussed for nursing mothers. Helpful tips are offered to pregnant women on how to stay physically healthy through resources for proper nutrition and exercise, as well as how to manage anxiety, stress, and depression during this unusual and unprecedented time we are navigating.

Pregnancy can always be fraught with some level of anxiety, but these are especially extraordinary times, and any level of concern should be discussed with your healthcare provider to help you understand the complexities of COVID-19 and pregnancy.

Dr. Hardy practices obstetrics and gynecology at Atlantic Ob/Gyn in Va. Beach and Chesapeake. Please call 757-463-1234 or visit www.atlanticobgyn.com.

Timothy J. Hardy, M.D.

Dr. Timothy Hardy, M.D. has been practicing medicine in the community for many years. He received his medical degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School and founded his own practice, Atlantic OB-GYN, in 1990, where he has been providing women with exceptional care ever since. Website: www.atlanticobgyn.com
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