Are you pregnant? Essential care to protect yourself

According to what we know so far about COVID-19 there is no scientific evidence that pregnant women are at greater risk of infection with the new coronavirus than the general population.

Therefore, they are not among the risk groups considered by this disease. Nevertheless, there are very important precautions for pregnant women, because in case of contamination by the new coronavirus, it is not yet known what the consequences are for the mother and the baby.

If you are pregnant, try to stay calm and, more than ever, listen and follow carefully the advice of your doctor. For now, we will leave you with some advice for pregnant women that will certainly be very useful.

Health care for pregnant women that all pregnant women should adopt

As previously stated, in our country, pregnant women have not been included in the COVID-19 risk groups. However, it should be taken into account that the changes that occur in a woman’s body and immune system during pregnancy can make her more susceptible to respiratory infections, thus increasing maternal morbidity.

Therefore, it is indeed important that pregnant women protect themselves and acquire adequate hygiene care. In addition, if they present symptoms of suspected infection with the new coronavirus, they should immediately contact the 24-hour hotline (808 24 24).

Hygiene Care

To date, studies have found no scientific evidence to support the need for pregnant women to receive different hygiene care than the rest of the population.

Thus, to avoid contagion from COVID-19, pregnant women should:

  • Avoid touching the mouth, nose, and eyes;
  • Follow respiratory etiquette, i.e., cough or sneeze into the inside bend of the elbow or into a disposable tissue;
  • Wash hands properly and frequently with soap and water or disinfectant gel;
  • Respect social distancing and isolation.

Routine examinations: to do or not to do

At this time, the Health Department has only issued guidelines for pregnant women with COVID-19 or suspected infection with the new coronavirus.

It is therefore understood that all other pregnant women should continue to attend their routine consultations and examinations, unless otherwise instructed by the health professional or facility.

According to João Bernardes, president of the Specialized College of Gynecology and Obstetrics of the College of Physicians, “a routine follow-up is recommended, adapted to local circumstances, which always depends on the available resources, human and material.” João Bernardes also informs that “some examinations, such as the third trimester ultrasound, have also been suspended, but without consequences for the health of the baby or the mother.”

Some face-to-face consultations have also been replaced by telephone calls. Ideally, therefore, the pregnant woman should maintain regular contact with the accompanying health professional or facility and follow their directions.

If you have to go to the health center, clinic or hospital, you should do so following the hygiene care described above.

Other useful information

Recently, the Health Department left important notes for pregnant women and new mothers.

These letters advised pregnant women to actively seek pertussis vaccination, which should take place between the 20th and 36th weeks of gestation; and, for new mothers, they reminded them that the “heel prick” should continue to be given between the 3rd and 6th days of the newborn’s life.

Another important aspect to consider is that, although pregnant women are not in the risk group for this disease, according to the World Health Organization, they should be prioritized for COVID-19 testing if they have symptoms consistent with this pathology.

Breastfeeding: yes or no?

Respectable organizations such as the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.K.’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) support breastfeeding, even in mothers infected with COVID-19.

In Portugal, the same position is taken by the Núcleo de Estudos de Medicina Obstétrica. However, the Colégio de Ginecologia e Obstetrícia is unfavorable to breastfeeding mothers with COVID-19. The Directorate General of Health has chosen to leave it to health professionals to decide what to do and to advise them on the matter.

To date, no traces of the new coronavirus have been found in breast milk samples from mothers with COVID-19. However, there are still too few samples available to be certain of the possibility of contagion or not.

What is certain is that in this pandemic setting and in the mitigation phase we are in, the most reasonable and prudent course is for all mothers who wish to breastfeed to take additional hygiene measures, namely

  • Wear a mask while breastfeeding (essential for mothers with COVID-19);
  • Follow respiratory etiquette;
  • Wash hands thoroughly before and after touching baby;
  • Disinfect any surfaces they touch.

Are you pregnant and on COVID-19? Find out what we know so far

Currently, research is continuing on the effects that COVID-19 may have on pregnancy, that is, whether or not a pregnant woman with the new coronavirus is more likely to give birth to a malformed fetus or suffer a pregnancy loss.

With respect to preterm birth, there is already evidence that infection with COVID-19 increases the risk of preterm birth.

The same doubts about transmission of the virus arise at other stages, such as childbirth or breastfeeding.

Thus, it is not yet known whether or not the mother can infect her fetus (vertical transmission) or her newborn (especially through delivery or breastfeeding).

However, analyses to date of amniotic fluid and breast milk samples from mothers with COVID-19 have not detected the new coronavirus. In summary, although there is not yet sufficient evidence to confirm or refute the risk of vertical transmission, it is already possible to state that, if it exists, this risk will be reduced.

Conclusion

Although pregnant women are not in the risk group for infection with the new coronavirus, it is natural that carrying a child in the midst of a pandemic would make them particularly anxious and fearful.

However, the recommendations are that they should adopt the same attitude as advised for the rest of the population and maintain relatively close contact with the health care professional or facility that follows them.

Although it may be necessary to make some adjustments regarding the monitoring of the pregnant woman, for the time being the essential routine examinations are preserved, as well as all the hygiene and safety measures, in order to avoid any contagion.

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