Covid-19 and pregnancy is a huge topic of conversation and there is no much unknown surrounding it. However we have Dr Ellie Rayner here to talk you through pregnancy during this global pandemic, along with answers to some of the most common questions.
Congratulations on your pregnancy and for coping so well during this difficult time. My name is Dr Ellie Rayner, I’m an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, antenatal teacher and founder of The Maternity Collective. As a practicing doctor who has worked full time throughout the pandemic, I completely understand that this must be a stressful and anxious time. If you are currently pregnant but be reassured, maternity hospitals, their staff and GPs are committed to providing safe and effective care for you and your baby during this time.
If you are currently pregnant you are probably hearing lots about COVID-19 and wondering what the pandemic means for you and your pregnancy and how you can remain healthy and well during this time. Here I have covered some of the commonest questions regarding pregnancy and COVID-19 and what steps you can take to stay well.
Research evidence suggests that pregnant women are at no greater risk of becoming seriously unwell and the majority of pregnant women will only experience mild or moderate symptoms should they catch coronavirus. Pregnant women can sometimes be at more risk of viruses like flu therefore, if you are pregnant, you should follow the latest guidance on staying alert and safe using social distancing, washing your hands properly and avoiding anyone who has symptoms suggestive of coronavirus.
A study conducted within the UK during the pandemic found that pregnant women from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups were more likely than other women to be admitted to hospital. Pregnant women who had pre-existing medical problems, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, who had a Body Mass Index (BMI) more than 30, who were aged more than 35 years were also at greater risk of developing severe illness and requiring an admission to hospital. This study also found that amongst pregnant women, the highest chance of becoming severely unwell appears to be in those greater than 28 weeks of pregnancy, so it is particularly important to follow social distancing and hygiene measures if you are in your third trimester.
The main symptoms of COVID-19 that you should look out for include temperature or cough and if you develop either of these symptoms you should arrange a test straight away. As with anyone who is not pregnant, you should self-isolate while you are waiting for the result. During pregnancy, there can be other possible causes for your symptoms, such as a urine or chest infection, so if your COVID-19 test result is negative, it is really important to seek advice if you still feel unwell. To help your pregnancy progress normally, your immune system naturally changes meaning you are can be more susceptible to infections, so if you feel your symptoms are becoming worse or you have other concerns, such as pain when passing urine, phone your GP or midwife straight away.
The current research suggests that there is no evidence that having COVID-19 during early pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage and the current evidence suggests that it is unlikely to cause problems with your baby’s development. If you were diagnosed with COVID-19 during pregnancy and experience only mild or moderate symptoms and did not require admission to hospital your remaining antenatal care is likely to remain unchanged. If you were seriously unwell or required hospital admission, then you will be offered additional follow up appointments to ensure you have recovered well and this may include additional scans of your baby. Transmission from mother to baby either during pregnancy or birth seems to be uncommon. After birth, if you wish to breastfeed, there is currently no evidence to suggests that the COVID-19 virus is passed on via breastmilk.
Antenatal and postnatal care is still essential for you and your baby throughout the pandemic and your local hospital will have made arrangements to ensure they can still provide all of the appointments you need whilst keeping you and your baby safe. If your care is shared with your GP, this should also continue. These appointments may be in a different place to usual, or via a different method, such as video or telephone call appointment, but they are all necessary.
If you have any concerns over yourself or your pregnancy, please phone your hospital for advice straight away, day or night. Even if you are symptomatic of coronavirus or self-isolating, it is really important that you get any help you need so don’t hesitate to call their helpline if you have symptoms such as pain, bleeding, suspect your waters have broken, not feeling your baby move as much as normal or anything else that you are unsure about. Whatever your concern, your team will be happy to advise and see you when needed.
The HSE website has a dedicated patient information section regarding COVID-19 and pregnancy which is updated regularly with the latest guidance and advice. Alternatively, if you do need any further information or have a specific question, please speak to your care provider as they will able to advise you on update to date guidance for your area and personal situation.
Stay safe and stay well
Obstetrician & Gynaecologist
Dr Ellie Rayner is a practicing Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Antenatal and Hypnobirthing teacher and founder of The Maternity Collective. The Maternity Collective provide comprehensive online antenatal and birth preparation courses led by a team of expert healthcare professionals.
More information is available at https://www.thematernitycollective.co.uk/
Follow Dr Ellie Rayner @maternitymedic for the latest evidence-based information on pregnancy, birth and women’s health issues.
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