Pregnancy and Breastfeeding during the COVID-19 Pandemic
During the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns among pregnant, breastfeeding, and women planning to get pregnant have increased. This article will address some of these issues.
Are pregnant women at higher risk of contracting COVID-19?
There is no evidence that pregnant women with no underlying health conditions are at a higher risk of contracting the virus than any other healthy individuals. There is no evidence to suggest an increased risk of miscarriage.
Additionally, there is no evidence that a pregnant mother can pass the COVID-19 to her baby while pregnant or during delivery.
Pregnant women should, of course, follow the recommendations related to social distancing, hand hygiene, wearing masks and gloves in public places, and take other precautions as advised.
Is it safe to continue prenatal and postnatal checkups?
Antenatal care is incredibly important to ensure a favorable pregnancy outcome. The advice to women is to keep following up with their obstetricians and continue with their antenatal care visits and checkups. However, if the woman displays any symptoms of COVID-19, she needs to self-isolate immediately and call her doctor/clinic for advice. For safe antenatal care visits and checkups, it is advisable to check if the health care provider can provide virtual care through Telehealth and Telemedicine (video calls).
Is it safe to give birth in a hospital?
When a woman goes into labor, she should attend to the hospital recommended by her health care provider. However, if she is showing any symptoms of COVID-19, it is vital to inform the maternity team.
What if a pregnant woman has other health conditions?
A pregnant woman must take extra precautions if she has other health conditions. Precautions include social distancing during pregnancy. Women should make sure they keep in contact with their doctor during pregnancy.
Does a pregnant or breastfeeding woman need to take any medicine/supplements or extra vitamins during pregnancy to prevent COVID 19?
A pregnant woman should follow her health care provider’s advice. Please do not take any vitamins or supplements unless advised by a doctor.
Is there any dietary recommendation to prevent COVID-19 during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?
A pregnant/breastfeeding woman should eat a balanced diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, lean protein and healthy fats, and low in added sugars and solid fats. The key nutrients to focus on in foods are iron, folic acid, calcium and vitamin D. A pregnant woman should not take any supplements without seeking medical advice.
Is there any specific advice for exercise during pregnancy and after delivery?
Although antenatal classes have been cancelled during social distancing, doctors and midwives can recommend specific exercises for pregnant women. Some hospitals may provide virtual exercise classes for pregnant women. Walking is recommended during pregnancy, although it might be difficult during the lockdown period. Walking indoors using a treadmill or garden is preferable.
Can a woman breastfeed her baby?
All the research shows that the COVID-19 virus cannot be transmitted through breastmilk. Therefore, the mother can breastfeed – it’s the best thing she can do for her baby.
Breastfeeding mothers should take precautions, including keeping away from crowded places, social distancing, wearing a mask, washing hands before and after contact, and cleaning/disinfecting surfaces. If the mother displays any symptoms of COVID-19, she should call her doctor immediately.
Is it okay to plan to get pregnant during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Planning a pregnancy is always recommended. There is nothing that should prevent a woman from planning a pregnancy during the COVID-19 outbreak. If a woman is on any medication or treatment, she should discuss her plan with her health care provider, however.
For More information
U.S. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: https://www.eatright.org/health/pregnancy/what-to-eat-when-expecting/eating-right-during-pregnancy
Iffat Elbarazi (PhD)
Assistant Professor in Public Health
College of Health Sciences
Abu Dhabi University