Coronavirus: Pregnant women not at greater risk, mothers can breastfeed their newborns, say experts
When the new coronavirus emerged in China and spread to the rest of the world, experts were worried that pregnant women could be at a higher risk. But it appears that the risk that pregnant women face is not greater than the general population, according to guidelines from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
The guidance provides recommendations for both mothers and doctors. It informs expectant mothers on how coronavirus affects them and their unborn babies while also informing doctors on how to manage labor and birth in women with suspected or confirmed coronavirus. The team will continue to update these guidelines as new evidence on the virus emerges.
"As most pregnant women are young and generally healthy, they’re less likely to be severely affected (which is good news)," Hannah Dahlen from Western Sydney University and David Ellwood from Griffith University, wrote in The Conversation. Only older people and those with underlying health conditions appear to be vulnerable to COVID-19.
These guidelines come after a newborn in London tested positive for the virus. Reports suggest that the child may have contracted the infection from the mother after birth.
The virus does not pass during pregnancy
The virus also does not seem to behave like Zika, a virus known for jumping to the fetus from the mother. "While the data is currently limited, it is reassuring that there is no evidence that the virus can pass to a baby during pregnancy," stated Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no evidence on mother-to-child transmission. A study conducted in China did not find traces of the virus in breastmilk or placenta.
Mothers can breastfeed their children
These guidelines also add that expectant mother can breastfeed their children. "At the moment there is no evidence that the virus can be carried in breastmilk, so it is felt the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of coronavirus through breastmilk," says the guidelines.
Mothers and infants need not be separated
Building on various studies, the authors of the report believe that newborns should not be separated from their mothers. "The impact of this separation, even as a precaution, can be significant on both the baby and the mother," explains professor Russell Viner, President of The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and one of the authors of the guidelines.
Precautions for expectant mothers
The team experts have a piece of advice for pregnant women with suspected or confirmed coronavirus: attend an obstetric unit during labor, where they can get more care.
They add that there is currently no evidence to indicate that cesarean birth is safer. Some experts say that doctors should opt for caesarian only in cases of septic shock, acute organ failure or fetal distress.
If expectant mothers experience symptoms similar to that of COVID-19, they should isolate themselves, according to the guidelines.
During breastfeeding, experts recommend that mothers wash their hands before touching the baby, breast pump or bottles. Avoiding coughing or sneezing on your baby while feeding at the breast, wearing a face mask, following recommendations for pump cleaning after each use will help, the report adds.