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Guidance for pregnant women during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 9:01 AM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 09:19:06-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Coronavirus has been especially problematic for those who are older or have health issues. Still, there's another segment of the population that doctors are classifying in that same at-risk category — pregnant women.

Dr. Chemen Neal, an IU Health OB/GYN, wants to relieve some of the anxiety mothers-to-be and their families may be feeling during this stressful time, by letting them know, doctors are doing everything they can to keep mother and their babies safe.

"We're relying on our experiences with other respiratory illnesses like influenza and SARS," Dr. Neal said, of how she and others are taking care of pregnant women.

With such little data out there about COVID-19 and how it interacts with pregnant women, that's really all they can do at this point.

"In those respiratory illnesses, pregnant women are at higher risk for being hospitalized and having much more severe symptoms," Dr. Neal said.

It's hard to know how many women, who are pregnant, have COVID-19. However, we do know that at least nine women with the virus delivered babies who didn't have it, according to "The Lancet," a peer-reviewed medical journal.

In the last several days, reports from London have come that a newborn baby tested positive for the virus. But, they're still trying to figure out if the mom gave it to the baby or if they got it during or after delivery.

Dr. Neal says there are a lot of unknowns, and it will be that way for a while.

"The pregnancies that we have experience with now ... were exposed very late in their pregnancy ... we don't know if there will be a difference of exposure early on in the pregnancy versus exposure later in the pregnancy," Dr. Neal said. "And that's something that's going to take a very long time to figure out."

That's why they're classifying pregnant women in the same risk group as those who are elderly.

"We're evaluating if they're stable," Dr. Neal said. "We really have a low threshold for any kind of intervention or hospitalization if they have a lot of significant respiratory symptoms."

The guidance for pregnant women will continue to evolve as we learn more about the COVID-19 virus, so you're encouraged to talk to your doctor and ask any questions you have to keep you and your baby safe.

Dr. Neal also informed us that there is no evidence that breastmilk can pass the coronavirus to babies. But, if you, as a mom, suspect you have COVID-19, another caregiver needs to feed and take care of the child.