Little Known On How COVID-19 Impacts Pregnant Women, Babies

OB-GYNs tell Newsy expecting moms are concerned about their birth plans and about whether catching the virus can endanger their babies.
Posted at 6:51 PM, Mar 19, 2020

Mothers are known to worry about their children, so it's only natural that expecting mothers are asking a lot of questions about the coronavirus. Doctors tell Newsy they've been fielding questions from around the maternity ward. Concerns include potentially catching the virus in the hospital, passing it to someone else and its impacts on deliveries. 

Andrea and Matt Olsen are expecting their third child this week and have considered inducing because of concerns related to the coronavirus. 

"Originally it was Sunday. But with everything going on and kind of just wanted to get in and out, I had her do it's a Thursday at 6 a.m. This with the virus and it's spreading so fast. I just, I just want to get to the hospital before it gets filled up and something, you know, could go wrong," Andrea Olsen told Newsy. 

Doctors say pregnant women are considered as a at-risk population, but not high risk, for coronavirus. Limited reports have shown adverse outcomes like preterm birth have been reported among babies born to moms with COVID-19, but it’s not clear if that's related to maternal infection. Data is limited, but right now there's no evidence that a pregnant woman with COVID-19 will transmit the virus to her baby in childbirth through placenta. There's no information on the long-term health effects on infants. 

"There's a limited amount of studies of a very small number of patients that is coming out of China, mostly. And we know that a majority of those women ended up having a cesarean section. These were women in their late pregnancy that were diagnosed with COVID infection. So the outcomes were fair. Yet the babies' outcomes were generally fair, but there were some relationships with preterm birth," Dr. Rahul Gupta, chief medical and health officer at the March of Dimes, told Newsy.

Early research shows while most young children or babies with coronavirus develop mild or moderate symptoms, about 6% can become seriously ill. Dr. Laura Boyer, an OB-GYN at Rose Medical Center in Denver, tells Newsy she's recommending her patients do everything they can to not contract the virus. 

"I'm especially concerned about women who might be coming to the hospital within the next few weeks. We know COVID-19 can be asymptomatic, and there's been evidence that there's asymptomatic shedding. So people can have virus and not know it and spread it to other people. That's the same for pregnant women. Testing is limited right now, but we're doing everything we can to at least test that population of patients," she said.

Experts say it's all about managing your personal risk. And while suggestions of at-home births or inducing early may come up, that's a discussion that will vary from patient to patient. 

"I definitely don't recommend early induction before 39 weeks. There's concerns that the baby's lungs might not be developed at that point. And I think that that would make the baby more risk if they did contract COVID-19 of having complications. Also, I want to avoid having that mom and baby in the hospital for any longer than needed," Boyer said.

"I've been delivering babies in practice for over 40 years," Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, clinical professor of obstetrics at Yale School of Medicine, told Newsy. "We have made hospitals birth-friendly so that you can have a delivery in a hospital. You close the door, you can deliver in bed. You can have your family there. It's fine. But if, God forbid, something happens, you know, I can open the door and scream, 'Help, all hands on deck.' And I can have five assistants there with me immediately, which you can't do in a home situation."

Experts say above all, keeping up to date with current information and keeping healthy habits like sleeping eight hours nightly and eating healthy helps set up a patient's body to fight the coronavirus, should they get sick. 

As for the Olsens, their hospital allows just mom and dad in the room during the birth. Visitors can come in one at a time and must go through individual screenings. And while the couple has joked about naming their new baby "Covid", they say they're feeling safe about delivery in the middle of a global pandemic.

"We'll definitely be looking back at this in our little baby girl saying, you know, that was our little coronavirus baby. She made it through. She's, she's a fighter," Matt Olsen said.