At Dekalb OB/GYN Affiliates in Decatur, Georgia, Shirley Rigaud-Echols, MD, FACOG and our all-female team of obstetric specialists have been monitoring the COVID-19 situation very closely. While information is ever-evolving as we understand more about the behavior of this virus in the human body, here’s what we found when it comes to pregnancy.
Before we dive a little deeper, we do want to underscore the point that any information we present here is based on the short nine months we’ve been able to observe the virus and its effects on different segments of the population. What we report may change as we learn more.
What we know so far
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been working around the clock since the pandemic hit to try and stay one step ahead of COVID-19. In the early days, it quickly became evident that older people and people with heart or respiratory issues were among the most vulnerable when it came to developing illness after infection.
As the virus affected more of our population, medical researchers were able to gather more information about the impact of the disease on other segments of the population, such as pregnant women.
To date, the reports suggest that pregnant women who contract the respiratory virus are more likely to be hospitalized and are at an increased risk for admittance into intensive care units, including ventilation.
To put some numbers to the problem, there have been more than 26,000 pregnant women diagnosed with COVID-19, which resulted in 45 deaths. Of these women, a little more than 6,000 were hospitalized. The virus also seems to affect pregnant Hispanic and black women disproportionately.
As well, there are other factors that have come into play. More specifically, pregnant women who have any of the following issues are more at risk for developing illness:
- Advanced maternal age
- High body mass index
- High blood pressure
While any death is one death too many, as you can see by the numbers, the increased risk we’re talking about isn’t all that large. Still, we recommend that any woman who becomes pregnant during this uncertain time exercise an abundance of caution, especially if you have co-occurring risk factors.
The future health of your baby
As we mentioned, this pandemic is only 9-10 months old, so gathering credible data on any effects the virus may have on your unborn child is difficult to surmise. There’s some evidence that infection may lead to a heightened risk of premature birth, but the impact it could have on your baby’s health going forward is unknown at this time.
What you can do
While we always recommend comprehensive prenatal care during a pregnancy, this is especially important during the current health care crisis.
Through regular visits with us, we can closely monitor your baby’s and your health and make recommendations for protecting yourselves.
As we wait for a vaccine, vigilance is the most important step you can take to safeguard your pregnancy. From handwashing to avoiding crowds, there are plenty of ways you can protect yourself from becoming infected by the COVID-19 virus in the first place.
We will also screen you regularly for any signs of infection, especially as your delivery date draws near.