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How to Protect Yourself From COVID-19 During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman
Neha Pathak, MD - Blogs
By Neha Pathak, MDBoard-certified internistMarch 24, 2020

Like most pregnant women, I spend a lot of my time preparing for the new baby. From setting up the nursery to planning for labor and delivery, we have a lot to juggle in the weeks to months leading up to the birth of our babies.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had to adjust or cancel many plans that I made in order to safeguard myself and my growing baby from the threat of COVID-19 infection.

It’s very important to remember that we are still learning a lot about this infection, and there is still very limited information about the risks to the health of pregnant women and their babies. Over time, we will learn much more valuable information and likely have new ways to protect ourselves. Here’s what we know so far:

Pregnancy and COVID-19

Right now, we know that the virus spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets (when a person coughs or sneezes), and those droplets enter your body through your mouth, nose, or eyes. It can also spread when we touch a surface where these droplets may be lingering, and then touch our own faces. There is also some evidence of viral particles floating in the air and being found in the stool of infected people, and researchers are still trying to figure out if people can be infected through contact with these particles.

The virus has not been found in amniotic fluid (the fluid that surrounds the baby in the womb) or in breastmilk.

Are pregnant women at high risk of complications from COVID-19?

From the limited information we have, we still don’t know if pregnant women are more likely to get infected with COVID-19 or more likely to have serious complications from the virus compared to the general population.

During pregnancy, our immune systems, hormone levels, and circulatory systems change to nurture our baby. Some of these changes put us as increased risk of complications from infections. Pregnant women often have more serious illnesses and complications from other respiratory infections like the flu, and other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS, but so far, we are not sure if this is the case for COVID-19.

There is some reason to be optimistic that symptoms seem to be in the mild to moderate category for most pregnant women, which is similar to what we’re seeing in women who are not pregnant. That being said, high fevers during pregnancy can harm a growing baby, especially in the first trimester, where high fevers have been shown to cause birth defects.

What can I do to prevent COVID-19 infection?

The most important thing we can do is to avoid becoming infected, if possible. This means strict social distancing. Unless absolutely necessary, don’t go out where there are other people around – this includes the grocery store, doctor’s offices, and crowded parks. It is not recommended that you travel for a babymoon or move forward with your baby shower during this time because these events can increase your risk of exposure to the virus.

Also, be sure to practice vigorous hand hygiene – wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds – and avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose. If you are not feeling well, stay at home and limit your exposures to other people. Sneeze and cough into tissues and throw them away immediately.

It’s important to keep ourselves as healthy as possible. This means eating nutritious meals (non-processed foods), staying active (walking outside is a great way to improve your mood as well), giving yourself enough time for a full night’s sleep, managing stress (reach out to loved ones or seek professional help if you are having a particularly hard time), drinking plenty of water, and avoiding anyone who smokes.

Protecting ourselves is the key to protecting our babies.

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About the Author
Neha Pathak, MD

Neha Pathak, MD, is a board-certified internal medicine doctor and part of WebMD's team of medical editors responsible for ensuring the accuracy of health information on the site. Before joining WebMD, Pathak worked as a primary care physician at the Department of Veterans Affairs and was an assistant professor of medicine at Emory University in Atlanta.

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