This is a scary time to be expecting, and you might have questions about your own coronavirus risk during pregnancy, whether your baby could contract coronavirus if you do, and what might happen if you go into labor when we’re still practicing social distancing. Stephen Carolan, M.D., an obstetrician in Westmed Medical Group in Rye and Purchase, has answers for your concerns. The good news? You have several things to be unconcerned about, both for your baby and yourself.
You are not at any more risk for contracting the virus because you’re pregnant.
“Pregnant women do not seem to be affected at a higher rate than non-pregnant women,” Dr. Carolan says. “There are some women who can get severely ill, and there have been patients that require ventilation…and we have seen no affected babies.”
Dr. Carolan explains that at his hospital, they are taking “extraordinary measures” to keep doctors and nurses safe by using protective gear for everyone—all doctors and nurses and patients wear masks during labor. Patients who have symptoms are tested. Dr. Carolan reports that a rapid test is imminent.
Many hospitals throughout the country have been limiting visitation in the delivery room, Dr. Carolan says, which can be a scary and destabilizing experience for mothers. But Governor Andrew Cuomo is allowing hospitals to allow one support person in the room with you, so you will not be alone.
“We’re not sure if that’s a good idea or a bad idea. I understand the need for support. But it remains to be seen if this will increase the risk of exposure for the patient and the medical staff,” Dr. Carolan says.
Your appointments with your obstetrician might look different right now.
Dr. Carolan explains his practice is spacing out appointments for non-high risk patients by a week or two to prepare for the upcoming apex of coronavirus cases in New York and minimize patients’ need to leave their homes. All necessary lab work and ultrasounds are being done, and he is seeing high-risk mothers as needed. Virtual visits are also available for non-high risk patients or moms-to-be who just have questions. Check with your doctor to see if you can do a virtual visit and ask if you’d be able to go into the office, especially if you’re at risk.
You have a few reasons to be less concerned about what coronavirus means for you and your baby.
“I think mothers should be reassured by several facts: The hospital labor and delivery units have to be very secure units, doing extreme screening and taking protective measures. The incidence of significant disease in pregnant women has been very low,” Dr. Carolan says. He adds that the vast majority of cases for pregnant women have been mild.
Looking to the future, he also points out that some medications currently on trial to be used in vaccines are safe to use for pregnant patients, because pregnant patients have been treated for rheumatoid arthritis successfully with said medications.
“If a vaccine becomes available, we’re going to encourage patients to get that in addition to their flu vaccine,” he says, “because we expect to see this again next winter, but hopefully not with this intensity, and we’ll be better prepared.”
Jacqueline Neber is an assistant editor and a graduate of The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. When she’s not focused on writing special needs and education features, you can find her petting someone else’s dog.
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