Pregnancy and Birth in the time of a Pandemic
By Kerry Blackadar
When it comes to COVID-19 and pregnancy, there is a lot we are learning on a daily basis. UBC’s Dr. Deborah Money is a professor in the faculty of medicine’s department of obstetrics and gynecology, and she is trying to fill that knowledge gap. She is leading a national surveillance study examining maternal and infant outcomes among pregnant women with COVID-19. When COVID-19 emerged, we faced a lot of questions about how to best advise pregnant women and maternal care providers, but the data on how COVID-19 affects pregnancy was severely limited.
What do we know about pregnancy and COVID-19 so far?
Based on our knowledge of other viruses like H1N1, pregnant women are more vulnerable to some respiratory infections compared to their non-pregnant peers. With COVID-19, we do not have any evidence to date to suggest that pregnant women are more at risk of developing the disease or severe complications. The impact of the virus on maternal health will be one aspect of our national study.
Can babies acquire the virus from the mother during pregnancy?
We do not think so, but this is very much in debate. As part of our national study, we will continue gathering more data about whether the virus can pass through the placenta during pregnancy, birth, or after birth.
Should babies born to mothers with COVID-19 be separated after birth?
We are not advocating for the separation of mothers with COVID-19 from their babies at birth. The period immediately after birth is so critical for mother-infant bonding, the establishment of breastfeeding, and for the overall mental health of the mother and baby. We believe that with careful masking, hand washing, and by modifying our behavior, it’s reasonable to have the mom and baby remain together.
Should women avoid getting pregnant during the COVID-19 outbreak?
We have not been advising against women getting pregnant. The decision is one that every woman will need to make based on their unique circumstances, including their work environment and exposure risk.
What challenges do pregnant women face today because of the outbreak?
The impact of the public health measures and limitations facing all of us right now present a unique challenge for pregnant women. Many of the typical activities like prenatal education and exercise classes that help women stay connected and supported throughout their pregnancy are either not happening or look very different. When you are pregnant, family and friends also play such an important role in getting through the normal challenges of pregnancy, so it is much harder for many pregnant women right now.