Does COVID-19 affect pregnant women?
With much fear surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19), there has been a rapid response by healthcare professionals and organisations from around the globe in trying to reduce speculation about its effects through rigorous research and a race to vaccine trials. On 21 March 2020, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists ([RCOG], 2020), Royal College of Midwives, and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health released a set of guidelines on COVID-19 and its effects on pregnant women.
Although there is not an abundance of research available on COVID-19 as of yet, from the data we do have readily available, pregnant women do not appear to be severely affected by the virus. What we can expect is pregnant women may experience symptoms in the form of mild flu. According to the guidelines (RCOG, 2020), at this stage ‘there is no evidence that pregnant women who get this infection are more at risk of serious complications than any other healthy individuals.’ This, of course, does not mean that pregnant women are not at risk and so should still proceed with caution. Adhering to the NHS' (2020) guidelines on ‘how to protect yourself and others’ through social distancing, frequent handwashing and self-isolating, especially if you display symptoms, is critical.
One major concern for pregnant women is the effect the virus will have on their baby if they do contract it while pregnant. However, the RCOG (2020) states that there is no current evidence to suggest a risk of miscarriage or that the virus can be passed on to the baby if caught by the mother during pregnancy. At the time of press, there were only two reported cases relating to transmission of the virus from mother to baby but it was unclear as to whether transmission occurred pre- or post-birth. Other cases in China highlighted a few pregnant women who displayed symptoms gave birth prematurely. It is not certain whether the virus was the cause for the early births, however.
Despite this, ‘expert opinion is that the baby is unlikely to be exposed during pregnancy,’ the RCOG (2020) explains. ‘It is also therefore considered unlikely that if you have the virus it would cause problems with the baby's development, and none have been observed currently.’ Healthcare professionals are keeping a close eye on pregnant women who display symptoms of the virus and are still urging those who fall in the high risk and vulnerable category to only leave the house if absolutely necessary.