Pregnancy is a wellness and not an illness. But during a pandemic, that anxiety can quickly multiply. While the researchers are working quickly to learn more about what the new coronavirus — as well as its impact on our daily lives especially on moms – to –be and new mom’s, the risks associated with Covid-19 infection for pregnant women need special attention. More than 130 million women give birth around the world each year. During pregnancy, changes in the immune system make women generally more susceptible to respiratory infections. However there is no evidence that pregnant women are any more susceptible to COVID than the average healthy adult is. The virus hasn’t been detected in amniotic fluid, cord blood, placenta tissue or breast milk, so apparently there’s no “vertical transmission” (you won’t give it to your fetus).
Precautions for Expecting Mothers
Here are some the precautions which is the same as for everyone else. Pregnant women should take routine preventative actions to avoid infection with the new coronavirus disease :
· Maximize your immune system and avoid any situation where you would be at higher risk for being infected
· Avoid large crowds, avoid sick people
· Wash your hands
· Work from Home as much as possible. Pregnant women should avoid going to work in medical and other settings where they are at higher risk of becoming infected
· Use Video consultations with your doctor and avoid non- essential visits to the hospital
· Since you need to do more self-monitoring, your home pharmacy should ideally include a blood pressure machine and urine test strips (both essential to screen for pregnancy-induced hypertension, aka preeclampsia)
· Women at high risk of complications will also need more frequent ultrasound monitoring. Hence they should avoid unaccredited ultrasound centers as a way of avoiding potential COVID-19 infections
· Cover your cough (using your elbow is a good technique)
· Avoid people who are sick
· Clean your hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
· Practicing respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
· If you have fever, cough or difficulty breathing, seek medical care early. Call before going to a health facility, and follow the directions of your local health authority
· Have a healthy diet that contains adequate energy, protein, vitamins and minerals, obtained through the consumption of a variety of foods, including green and orange vegetables, meat, fish, beans, nuts, whole grains and fruits
Precautions for New Mothers
It is important that all pregnant women to have the right to high quality care before, during and after childbirth. This includes antenatal, newborn, postnatal, intrapartum and mental health care.
How can you protect yourself and others?
New mothers should breastfeed their newborn as much as possible. However, it is important to strictly follow the below-mentioned guidelines:
· New mother must practice respiratory hygiene
· Wash hands thoroughly before and after touching the baby
· Routinely clean and disinfect all surfaces around the baby
· You should wash your hands before and after touching your baby and keep all surfaces clean
· Restrict your diet to home cooked and clean food only
· At a time when we are being asked to stay away from one another and to practice “social distancing,” babies are a powerful source of connection, Limit the number of people who touch and hold the baby
· Wear a face mask, if possible, while feeding at the breast
· Wash your hands before touching pump or bottle parts and clean all parts after each use
Can you breastfeed your baby if you have any respiratory illness: The simple answer is yes, you can and yes, you should. If you are a new mother, it is important to understand that close contact and early, exclusive breastfeeding can help the baby thrive. If you are too unwell to breastfeed your baby due to any complications, you should be supported to safely provide your baby with breast milk in a way possible, available, and acceptable to you. This could include:
· Expressing milk
· Donor human milk
Always remember – the virus is not transmitted to fetus in utero as well as in milk. So the risk of newborn getting infected is only through contact. Regular antenatal visits cannot be deferred for long durations. All contacts with people who have travelled abroad or had contact with infected people have to be strictly avoided.
(Disclaimer: The writer is Dr Pratibha Singhal, Director and Senior Consultant, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Cloudnine Hospital, Noida. Views expressed are a personal opinion.)