The spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes the illness COVID-19, is at the top of everyone’s mind. And being pregnant, you’re likely worried about how the new coronavirus may affect you and your baby.
Our top concern is keeping our patients and members, their families and our communities safe and healthy.
Read on for guidance and ways you can protect yourself and your loved ones.
Here’s what you need to know
Pregnant women may have a higher risk for complications from COVID-19.
In general, pregnant women experience changes in their bodies that may make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Pregnant women may also have a higher risk for severe illness during pregnancy, as seen in cases of other related coronavirus infections [including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)] and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza (flu).
Because of this, it’s important for pregnant women and their loved ones to take steps to lower the risk of contracting COVID-19.
So far, the minimal evidence we have on COVID-19 suggests that pregnant women don’t experience illness that is any more severe than the general public.
If you are pregnant, you should talk with a doctor or healthcare provider who understands your current health status and medical history to assess your risks related to COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also offers specific recommendations for people at risk for serious illness, including COVID-19.
Information is still new.
Because the COVID-19 outbreak is still new, doctors don’t have a lot of specific information on how this strain of coronavirus affects pregnant women and their babies. However, they do have a lot of information regarding the risk of infections in general for pregnant women.
Symptoms of a COVID-19 infection can resemble that of a cold or flu, and can last up to 14 days:
- Runny nose
- Shortness of breath
COVID-19 symptoms can appear as early as 2 days and as late as 14 days after exposure.
In general, we do know that high fevers during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the risk of certain birth defects.
And based on limited case reports, infants born to mothers positive for COVID-19 during pregnancy are at a higher risk for some complications (e.g., preterm birth). However, it isn’t clear if these outcomes were related to maternal infection, and at this time, the risk for babies is unknown.
If I get COVID-19 while pregnant, can I pass it to my baby?
The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly by close contact with an infected person through respiratory droplets (released when you cough or sneeze). Whether a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can transmit the virus that causes COVID-19 to her fetus or newborn by other routes of vertical transmission (before, during or after delivery) is still unknown at this time.
However, in limited recent cases of infants born to mothers with COVID-19, none of the infants have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.
The virus was also not detected in samples of amniotic fluid or breastmilk.
What should I do if I’m breastfeeding?
So far, there is no evidence of virus detected in the breastmilk of women with COVID-19. If you’re breastfeeding, it’s best to contact your doctor or healthcare provider for recommended next steps.
If you feel like you’re developing symptoms, call your doctor.
If you’re having symptoms you think may be related to COVID-19, before you visit a doctor’s office, clinic or emergency room, call your doctor or our 24/7 hotline at 570-284-3657 for care guidance or to talk with a nurse, especially if:
- You’ve been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.
- You live in or have recently traveled to an area known to have an outbreak of the disease.
Watch for emergency warning signs.
Seek immediate medical attention if you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, including:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- Bluish lips or skin
- Sudden confusion or inability to arouse
In an emergency, call 911 or head to the nearest emergency room.
What if a family member develops symptoms?
Take the following precautions if a family member shows symptoms of flu or COVID-19:
- Wash your hands often, and make sure your family member does the same.
- Keep surfaces in your house clean.
- Maintain a safe distance.
- Sleep in different rooms.
- Don’t eat at the same table.
Following these guidelines can be difficult if you have children. We encourage you to have a candid discussion with your family about the risks you face and your need to maintain a safe distance and keep the house sanitized.
Should I keep regularly scheduled follow-up appointments?
If you’re doing well and not experiencing any symptoms, consider contacting your doctor to ask if routine care is necessary right now. Avoiding a hospital or clinic visit would limit your risk.
And if you have mild symptoms of fever, runny nose and cough, stay home, just like you would if you had a cold.
If you have mild symptoms and must visit a clinic, be prepared to put on a mask when you arrive. This will keep your care team and others in the waiting room safe.
If you have any doubts or questions about visiting a healthcare site, call the Geisinger coronavirus hotline — 570-284-3657 — before your appointment.
Is my partner/family member allowed to accompany me to an appointment?
Guidelines are changing as the situation evolves and we work to keep patients safe. For the latest information, check our temporary visitor policy.
How you can protect yourself
As with the flu, the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is through common-sense prevention measures:
- Practice social distancing. Don’t shake hands, avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet away from others.
- Wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing, sneezing or visiting public areas. Alcohol-based sanitizers and wipes with at least 60% alcohol are also good options for hand hygiene.
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
- Avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, nose and eyes.
- Keep surfaces clean and disinfected at your home, workplace and school.
It is critical for pregnant women to protect themselves from illnesses. Take extra care to avoid crowded and closed public spaces, such as public transportation, theaters and restaurants. Limit travel — especially on planes or cruise ships, which should be avoided.
This doesn’t mean you’re housebound. You can take walks outside and even go grocery shopping at off-peak hours, if necessary. Try to bring your own bags and be sure to disinfect cart handles.Wash your hands or use sanitizer after using the cart. Hand hygiene is important.
Most importantly, if you are feeling sick or showing signs of an illness, be very cautious about going into public spaces and stay home from work or school.
What is coronavirus and COVID-19?
Coronaviruses are a large family of diverse, common viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from a common cold to a severe lower respiratory tract infection, like pneumonia. The novel (new) coronavirus you’ve been hearing about, which originated in Wuhan, China, results in an illness called COVID-19.
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that usually includes not only an upper respiratory tract infection, but also a lower respiratory tract infection, which can lead to pneumonia and breathing issues.
How is COVID-19 spread?
Coronaviruses, including the one causing COVID-19, spread like most respiratory viruses, including the flu or a cold:
- Droplets traveling through the air by coughing or sneezing
- Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- Touching an object or surface with the virus on it
- Although the virus RNA can be found in stool samples, spreading through feces is not likely
Symptoms of a COVID-19 infection can resemble that of a cold or flu and typically include a fever, shortness of breath and cough.
For the latest information, including more detailed responses to some common questions, visit the following websites: