Here at the Bub Hub we’ve always made it our aim to provide sensible, practical and up-to-date advice to parents and parents-to-be so they can make informed decisions when it comes to fertility, pregnancy, and raising children.
Now, more than ever before, parents need a clear voice amid the confusion. And with that in mind, we’ve consulted a range of experts to discuss the only thing many of us are thinking about at the moment — the coronavirus or COVID-19.
Here we speak to obstetrician Dr Brad Robinson about coronavirus and pregnancy.
Pregnancy can be a stressful time under normal circumstances so it’s not surprising that many women who are currently pregnant are feeling even more anxious at the moment.
The good news, according to obstetrician Dr Brad Robinson, is that, from what we know so far about coronavirus, there is no increased risk for pregnant women and their unborn babies.
Dr Robinson says that because the virus was only first detected in November of last year, there is not a great deal of data.
“But it is all very positive in terms of pregnancy,” he says.
Can coronavirus affect my unborn baby?
“The mother’s main concern is always ‘is there a risk to my unborn baby?’ and the answer, as far as we know at this point, is ‘no’,” says Dr Robinson.
“The bulk of the research done so far is from a group of 19 women who were pregnant and delivered in China.
“What was found was that there was no increased risk of miscarriage, there was no increased risk of stillbirth and there was no risk of vertical transmission of the virus from the mother to the baby.”
Am I more at risk if I contract coronavirus while pregnant?
Dr Robinson says a pregnant women is no more at risk of complications from COVID-19 than she would be if she was not pregnant.
“Pregnant women are no more at risk than if they were a carbon copy of themselves when not pregnant — if you get what I mean.
“And that is not the case with influenza, the risk of hospitalisation and pnuemonia doubles when you have influenza while pregnant. Pregnant women are not experiencing this with COVID-19.”
What happens if I have COVID-19 when I go into labour?
Dr Robinson says labour and birth will be different for a woman if she is known to have COVID-19, but how different will depend on how well or unwell she’s feeling at the time.
“If a women has known COVID-19 and enters into labour spontaneously all medical staff will have to wear full PPE [personal protective equipment] — gowns, masks and gloves,” he says.
“But if she’s well enough it is likely that there is no contraindication that she can labour vaginally.”
Dr Robinson says decisions will have to be made depending on the mother’s medical state, how much she can endure and how she feels.
He says there are things they may do to make labour less demanding on the mother, including making sure there’s enough pain relief and assisting during the 2nd stage of labour so the mother don’t have to push for as long.
He says medical staff can allow baby to passively descend as much as possible once contractions start to slow and the mother is fully dilated, then once the pushing begins there are ways to assist, for example, vacuum extraction.
Will my baby contract coronavirus if I have it while giving birth?
“The best place for a newborn baby is with the mother,” says Dr Robinson.
“But the concern is that the baby could contract the virus. This is almost inevitable unless you completely separate the baby from the mother.
“The risk of transmission is high but babies have been only mildly affected and will be protected by receiving antibodies through breast milk.
“There is no suggestion that the virus can be transmitted via breast milk.”
What advice should pregnant women be following?
Pregnant women should be following the general advice:
- extensive, ongoing hand washing
- avoid touching your face
- maintain social distancing
- avoid gatherings.
“People should avoid all unnecessary events, Dr Robinson says.
“Last week I still had patients say ‘I’m still going to have my baby shower, or I’m still going to my friend’s baby shower’ but the message is now hitting people and they are being more vigilant.”
Should I cancel my antenatal appointments?
“You really still need to maintain your medical check-ups, ” Dr Robinson says.
He says practices have been very careful about reducing the risks but there are things patients can do as well. These include:
- attend the appointment on your own
- be on time but not early and if you’re early, stay in your car or wait outside
- use hand sanitizer when you arrive
- be prepared to answer questions that may lead to you being turned away (such as ‘do you have a fever? etc).
Dr Robinson says for some appointments it might be appropriate to conduct them via tele-conference but for many they’ll still need to come in so the usual physical checks (blood pressure etc) can still be done.
If your appointments are with your GP or in a large general hospital you do have to be really vigilant and if you’re concerned you can ring ahead and ask what measures they have in place.
Thanks to Dr Brad Robinson for giving up his time to discuss this with us. Dr Robinson recorded a Facebook message about coronavirus and pregnancy recently and although some of the advice surrounding social shutdowns has changed since then, the pregnancy health message remains consistent. Definitely worth a watch.
You can see all our coronavirus content in our COVID-19 Hub.