By Kristin Brigger, MD
Board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist on staff at The Woman’s Hospital of Texas
Giving birth during a pandemic isn’t what most expectant mothers plan for. The usual worries include your diet, is the baby growing well or what color should you paint the nursery. But with the coronavirus, COVID-19 outbreak, there are additional concerns for pregnant women to consider that were not on the original pregnancy checklist.
If you are currently pregnant, I urge you to be proactive in preventing a COVID-19 infection. It is recommended that you follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines regarding social distancing—limiting exposure to public settings and wearing a mask when in public, frequent handwashing and staying in contact with your obstetrician. Pregnant women do not have a higher risk of severe illness, but we are still learning a lot about COVID-19. It’s important to take every precaution you can to stay healthy until we can know the true risks of the virus.
Many OB practices, including my own, are providing telehealth options to limit potential exposure to COVID-19. Your provider will determine if a telehealth visit is right for you.
As I continue to care for patients during the COVID-19 outbreak, many have expressed similar concerns. Below are a few frequently asked questions and answers to help you, or any pregnant women that you know, through this uncertain time. Rest assured, we are prepared to safely care for you and your newborn.
Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
- Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and loss of smell or taste.
Q: Is it safe for me to deliver in the hospital and what precautions are being made?
- The safest place to deliver is in a hospital setting, and the hospital is a safe place for you to come for your delivery. The health and safety of all our patients, your support person, hospital staff and physicians is our top priority. Hospital staff are trained on infection prevention measures and extensive precautions are being taken with every patient to prevent exposure to COVID-19, including designated units for COVID-19 positive patients.
- Patients and their support person are asked screening questions before they arrive to the hospital and before entering the building. We ask all patients and their support person to wear masks. Moms are tested for COVID-19 typically 48 hours prior to a scheduled delivery and rapid COVID-19 testing will be administered to provide immediate results for moms who begin laboring at home.
Q: Is my baby more susceptible to catching COVID-19 if I am COVID-19 positive?
- Based on the data that we have today, it does not appear that there is mother-to-child transmission of COVID-19 during pregnancy. Babies who are born to COVID-19 positive patients are immediately tested for the disease after delivery.
Q: How will my birth experience be different if I have tested positive for COVID-19?
- If you are COVID-19 positive when you deliver, The Woman’s Hospital of Texas will implement the most up-to-date CDC guidelines to ensure you and your baby are safe.
Q: If I am COVID-19 positive, what are some of the things the hospital is doing to keep my baby safe?
- The post-delivery goal for your OB/GYN and care team is to keep you healthy and your baby free of COVID-19. There are protocols in place to protect everyone involved. The baby is thoroughly bathed immediately post-delivery and transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit for close observation. Special care will be given to you and your baby during the hospital stay with masking and assistance with handwashing. Special instructions will be given to you and for the baby’s at-home care.
Q: Will I be able to have a support person with me during labor?
- Yes, you can have one support person with you during labor and your stay. This person will be the same visitor/support person the entire time, and they must be healthy and cannot be COVID-19 positive.
- Mothers may also have a certified doula for the duration of labor and delivery. The doula must show proof of their certification and pass the screening process required of all care providers.
Q: Am I able to breastfeed if I have COVID-19?
- The Woman’s Hospital of Texas encourages all moms to breastfeed. If you have COVID-19, it is important for you to practice meticulous hand hygiene and be masked when breastfeeding. We also encourage moms to pump their breastmilk and have their support person give the baby breastmilk.
Q: Is it okay for family members and siblings to visit you and baby when you are in the hospital?
- We have limited non-essential visitors to further protect mothers, their newborns, their loved ones, and hospital staff and physicians who are providing care. We encourage moms to include family members and children in virtual visits with phone calls, text messages, and video conferencing.
For more information about pregnancy and COVID-19, please visit The Woman’s Hospital of Texas website at womanshospital.com.
Since 1976, The Woman’s Hospital of Texas is the state’s premier facility dedicated to the health and well-being of women, newborns, and children. In 2019, The Woman’s Hospital of Texas delivered more than 11,000 babies. The Woman’s Hospital of Texas offers expertise and outstanding care in breast health, imaging, gynecology, obstetrics, high-risk pregnancy, neonatology, minimally-invasive surgery, and pediatric care.