Living through the COVID-19 pandemic is unsettling for everyone, but raises unique concerns for pregnant women and their families. Philip M. Bayliss, M.D,, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist with LG Health Physicians Maternal Fetal Medicine, addresses some common questions patients are asking.
My partner and I are trying to get pregnant. Should we wait until there is more information about COVID-19 and pregnancy?
There are many things to think about in planning a family, including your personal health, social situation, and desire. You should make your decision about pregnancy based on these factors, not COVID-19. Current research shows it is not likely that COVID-19 is passed from mother to baby during pregnancy or labor. It is always important to talk with your health-care provider about any concerns you may have, and if eligible, strongly consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Am I at higher risk for pregnancy complications if I have COVID-19?
Pregnancy does not make you more likely to get COVID-19, but a COVID-19 infection does increase the risk of certain pregnancy complications. These include: preterm birth, preeclampsia, venous thromboembolism (blood clots), and cesarean section (C-section). Patients with more severe illness have a greater risk of these complications than women with either mild or asymptomatic disease. A small number of newborns will test positive for COVID-19 born to women with the virus. Most will be asymptomatic, or have no symptoms.
Am I at higher risk for COVID-19 complications if I'm pregnant?
Pregnancy is now considered a risk factor for COVID-19 complications. There is an increased risk of hospitalization with severe disease, the need to be put on a ventilator, and death when compared to non-pregnant adults.
Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I am pregnant?
Because pregnancy increases your risk for severe illness from COVID-19, the CDC, World Health Organization, American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology, and the Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine, recommend vaccination be available for pregnant women. Talk with your OB provider to discuss any concerns you have in deciding whether to receive the vaccine.
Because I'm pregnant, should special restrictions be placed on my job or my job responsibilities so I'm not exposed to COVID-19?
The CDC recommends pregnant women follow the same safety measures recommended for everyone. There are no specific COVID-19 job restrictions for pregnant women. Additionally, there is no evidence at this time to suggest pregnancy increases your risk of getting COVID-19.
What are the risks if my baby catches COVID-19?
While current (but limited) evidence suggests very small risk for disease in newborns, should your baby become infected with COVID-19, their health-care provider will coordinate the appropriate care, working closely with neonatologists and infectious disease specialists.
Will I need a C-section if I have COVID-19?
At this time, having COVID-19 doesn’t indicate a need for early delivery or a cesarean section (C-section). Your obstetrician will offer guidance on whether a vaginal delivery or C-section is the best option for you. If a woman is seriously ill or is experiencing complications because of the virus, the delivery team will make recommendations based on what is best for both mother and baby.
Should I still go to my prenatal appointments?
Obstetrical care is considered essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. We recommend you keep your prenatal appointments, especially if your provider has determined you need additional care during this time.
Many providers are using different types of visits to limit risk, or are delaying certain tests if not time-sensitive—all in keeping with American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommendations.
The best advice is always to follow your doctor's recommendations.
Should I make changes to my birth plan?
Birth plans should always be flexible and part of an ongoing conversation with your delivery team. The team’s top priority is the safety of you and your baby, as well as honoring your birth wishes as much as possible. If a mother is severely ill, it is likely some aspects of a routine birth plan would be altered for safety.
Am I allowed to have my support person with me during delivery?
At Women & Babies Hospital, each laboring woman may have one support person of her choosing present during delivery. The support person will be screened for temperature, symptoms, and possible exposure to COVID-19 prior to entering the hospital. They will also receive a mask to wear during their stay. In addition to a support person, an approved doula may be with a woman in labor.
If I have COVID-19, do I need to isolate myself from my baby?
Mothers and newborns do not need to be separated after birth, although it remains an option. Everyone entering the mother’s room should practice recommended precautions: mask wearing, hand washing, and physical separation.
Can I take ibuprofen for pain relief after I deliver my baby?
At the very beginning of the pandemic, there were concerns that ibuprofen (like Advil and Motrin) and other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and naproxen) could worsen a COVID-19 patient's symptoms. However, there is no evidence of that. The CDC and National Institutes of Health do not recommend restricting the use of ibuprofen or other NSAIDs. If you have no other health concerns, you may take ibuprofen following delivery.
What is Women & Babies Hospital’s policy on COVID-19 testing for laboring patients?
Women & Babies Hospital has adopted a universal COVID-19 testing protocol for all women admitted for delivery. This is a similar approach being used by large numbers of hospitals across Pennsylvania and the country.
Knowing a woman's test status helps the health-care team take the most appropriate measures to protect everyone’s safety.
Visitation and testing guidelines are posted on the Lancaster General Health website and will be updated regularly to address new information and new recommendations. As much as possible, patients' wishes and choices will be discussed and honored by delivery teams.