'Current, future mothers should be careful amid virus'
Perinatologist Dr. Oya Demirci at Saglik Bilimleri University (SBU) in Turkey's capital Ankara told Anadolu Agency about the effects of the virus during and after pregnancy, precautions against infection and recommendations for infected pregnant women.
Does pregnancy increase the risk of coronavirus infection?
It is known that the immune system weakens during pregnancy. Decreased immunity makes pregnant women more susceptible to viral respiratory infections. In addition, changes in the respiratory system during pregnancy can make respiratory infections more severe. In different types of coronavirus outbreaks, such as SARS, MERS and the H1N1 flu epidemic, pregnant women faced more serious problems. Therefore, mothers should be more careful during the current pandemic.
What are the precautions against coronavirus infection during pregnancy?
The measures to be taken during pregnancy are similar to those recommended for the rest of society. Hand hygiene is especially important and hands must be washed for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. When it is not possible to wash your hands, use hand-sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol. Moreover, hands must be kept away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
Another important point is maintaining social distance. Pregnant women should go out as little as during the epidemic and shouldn't accept guests. When they have to leave the house, they should wear a protective [medical] mask, stay away from the crowds and keep at least a meter between themselves and others. Also, a balanced diet and regular sleep must be maintained to increase body resistance.
Can coronavirus be transmitted to baby during pregnancy?
There's not enough research on the risk of the coronavirus infecting babies during pregnancy. Also, there is no evidence yet that a baby can be infected before or during birth. In addition, it is not yet known how a coronavirus infection in the early stages of pregnancy as organ development takes place can affect pregnancy and the baby. However, fever-inducing illnesses during early pregnancy may have negative effects on the baby. Therefore, expectant mothers must take strict precautions against this infection and avoid possible transmission.
What should be done in suspicion of coronavirus infection?
In the case of suspected contact with the coronavirus during pregnancy, one must remain under home quarantine for 14 days if there are no symptoms like high fever, cough, muscle pain or respiratory distress. As long as there are no emergencies during this period, routine examinations should be postponed and one should contact their obstetrician or family doctor. In the case of high fever, cough, widespread muscle pain or respiratory distress, one should wear a mask and apply to a hospital. If there are signs of coronavirus pneumonia after the examination, the doctor can ask for a low-dose computed tomography. In cases that your doctor deems appropriate, a single tomography while covering the abdomen is below the minimum dosage that may cause negative results in the baby. In addition, a coronavirus test must be performed if there is suspicion of infection. After all these examinations and tests, the doctor will have an idea on the severity of the infection and will plan the appropriate follow-up and treatment accordingly.
How should pregnancy be followed during the coronavirus epidemic?
Hospital environments carry the highest risks of infection among places. The pregnancy guide handbook prepared by the Health Ministry recommends a pregnant woman receive a medical examination at least four times. During a pandemic, the obstetrician should plan the intervals for routine examinations and the birth time.
Unless there is an emergency, a coronavirus infection doesn't affect birth time or method of delivery (vaginal delivery or cesarean delivery).
Can a pregnant woman with the coronavirus breastfeed her baby after birth? How should an infected woman protect her baby from infection?
Breast milk is the best way of nourishment and protects babies against many diseases. Current data indicates that the coronavirus does not pass into breast milk. The main concern is that a severely infected patient may infect the baby through droplets, in other words, via the respiratory tracts.
Mothers and babies with severe symptoms may require separate isolation. In cases of mothers have mild symptoms or none at all, the family and doctor should decide on the issue of breastfeeding together after reviewing possible risks. Mothers can breastfeed their baby after taking the necessary precautions against transmission via respiration or contact. Mothers should wear a medical mask and wash their hands before touching the baby. If the baby and mother are staying in the same room, the distance should be at least one meter with, if possible, a barrier such as a curtain in between.
After surfacing in Wuhan, China last December, coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has spread to 180 countries and regions.
The global death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 47,500, with nearly 942,000 cases confirmed worldwide, according to the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. Over 195,900 have recovered from infections so far.