Pregnancy and childbirth is the most interesting phase in a woman’s life in normal circumstances. In the current uncertain times and health threats the anxiety pregnant women face is real and palpableN.
History has shown us that human race has survived pandemics and wars before and the current time is no different. With the advanced medical science and technology, we are far better equipped to combat the pandemic than our ancestors would have. However, the stress and anxiety of women towards the wellbeing of themselves and their unborn or newborn child could probably be the same across the centuries.
At Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health we strive to bring all the relevant and latest health information for all the migrant women in Australia. We have compiled answers to some of your vexing questions according to the guidelines from The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RANZCOG) and Women’s and Children’s Hospital, SA
Your questions answered
Will COVID-19 affect my pregnancy?
As COVID-19 is a new illness there is little detailed information about the impact of the virus on pregnant women and their babies. Experience with other viruses in this family suggests that while pregnant women may develop severe respiratory symptoms, pregnant women do not appear to be more severely unwell if they develop COVID-19 infection than others in the general population. In fact, the large majority of pregnant women will experience only mild or moderate cold/flu type symptoms.
How will this impact my birth plan?
For many women, there will be no changes to the way you plan to give birth. However, many hospitals are enforcing a one visitor per patient policy to reduce the risk of exposure. This means that you will only be able to have one birthing partner. There is no evidence that caesarean section or induction of labour is necessary to reduce the risk of transmission to your baby. You should still approach this extraordinary time in your life without fear or apprehension. Medical intervention, other than that specifically related to infection control, will not change significantly. You can still practise active mobilisation, water immersion and will have access to pain relief if you would like.
Can I pass COVID-19 to my unborn baby?
There is no evidence at this stage that the virus can pass to your developing baby while you are pregnant, or that the virus will cause abnormalities in your baby.
Will COVID-19 affect my ability to conceive or cause miscarriages?
For women who are trying to conceive, or who are in early pregnancy, there is no evidence to suggest an increased risk of miscarriage with COVID-19.
Does COVID-19 cause premature birth?
Some babies born to women with symptoms of COVID-19 in China have been born prematurely. It is unclear whether this was due to the illness, or the doctors made the decision for the baby to be born early because the women were unwell. Newborn babies and infants do not appear to be at increased risk of complications from the infection.
Should I continue my antenatal care appointments?
Routine antenatal investigations, ultrasounds, maternal and fetal assessments should continue as before. Your chosen hospital will inform you about the changes to the service delivery. Pregnant women are also advised to continue with the recommended immunisation schedule including whooping cough and influenza vaccination.
Can I still breast feed if I have COVID19?
Yes. Women who wish to breastfeed their babies should be encouraged and supported to do so. At the moment there is no evidence that the virus is carried in breastmilk and, therefore, the well-recognised benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of COVID-19 through breastmilk.
What else should I do to protect myself and my unborn baby?
Above all else, if you are pregnant, take care of yourself. Don’t forget the importance of regular hand hygiene, cough etiquette and social distancing. Take the opportunity to rest, eat well and maintain your interests and hobbies, where possible. You are the best protection for your baby so caring for yourself, your emotional and physical health, is what is most important.
Updated advice for the care of pregnant women
In light of the successful flattening of the curve in Australia and New Zealand, RANZCOG has updated their advice regarding routine antenatal care and birth.
A) Antenatal visits may now be undertaken face to face and at usual intervals.
B) Antenatal face to face classes can now resume within the limitations of social distancing requirements.
C) Accompanying partner at routine visits, hospital visitors and number of support persons in labour as per local protocols, allowing for social distancing measures.
D) Routine screening for gestational diabetes.
The College recognises that individual institutions and other jurisdictions will have their own protocols in place and these should be adhered to. There remains a risk of a second wave of infection and all social distancing and hygiene precautions should remain in place.
Looking forward to the future
The national registry, which 28 hospitals across Australia have currently signed up to, will provide clinicians with important insights about how mothers and babies are impacted by this virus. Insights from the registry will also contribute to the global community to better understand COVID-19’s impacts.
Things you could do for keeping yourself well include:
- Minimising your intake of COVID-19 news and only viewing trusted sources.
- Keeping a routine in your day.
- Staying connected to family, friends and work colleagues through phone and internet connections.
- Trying some gentle meditation or yoga.
- Getting your partner to give you a massage.
- Keeping to a healthy diet.
- Getting enough rest and sleep.
- Exercising – find somewhere outside in nature where you can walk safely while keeping the appropriate social distancing.
- Finding sources of support, such as the COPE (Centre of Perinatal Excellence) website, which provides updates on perinatal anxiety, including some general COVID-19 information.
The medicine/vaccine for the COVID-19 may come about in the near future. For now, all of us in Australia have done well to contain the situation well. However, the danger of second wave of COVID-19 is real. And as such we all ought to follow the steps to continue to flatten the curve so that we can get back to our normal lives.
Download the COVIDSAFE APP today to be safe and protect your family.
to know more how the app works visit: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/videos/covidsafe-app-how-does-it-work