How to deal with COVID-19 while pregnant?
Many pregnant women are concerned about getting infected with COVID-19 and whether there will be any negative impact on their babies. Here are some answers from Huang Hefeng, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Q: If I get infected, will my fetus get infected as well?
A: Based on global research, the possibility of intrauterine transmission of COVID-19 is very low. My team has analyzed several pregnant women in their last trimester and did not detect COVID-19 in the placenta, amniotic fluid or cord blood. So far, there is insufficient evidence to make the conclusion that COVID-19 can be transmitted to fetuses via the placenta.
Viruses can only be transmitted via the placenta when they reach a certain level, while research has shown that the amount of COVID-19 is actually not high in the placenta.
The COVID-19 virus infects human cells by binding with certain kinds of proteins in human bodies, which are very low in the placenta, leading to low probability of intrauterine transmission.
Q: If I am pregnant and get infected, should I terminate the pregnancy?
A: We suggest that COVID-19 patients in early stages of pregnancy should not make the decision blindly.
However, researchers have found that pregnant women who test positive for COVID-19 have higher risks of other infections and thrombus.
We suggest COVID-19 patients in the early stages of pregnancy should seek medical treatment if they develop symptoms such as bleeding and stomachaches during quarantine.
Q: Should I have a Caesarean section if I get infected?
A: There is insufficient proof that a C-section is a better option than a natural delivery in preventing possible vertical transmission of the virus.
Q: If a mother is infected, can she still breastfeed her baby?
A: Breast milk is the best nutritional source for most infants and can help them avoid many diseases.
Researchers have found no traces of COVID-19 in breast milk of infected mothers.
However, the virus may be transmitted via infants' mouths when infected mothers speak, cough or sneeze. Therefore, following preventive measures are suggested to prevent infections while breastfeeding:
1. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before contacting your baby or breast pumps. Wear a face mask and refrain from talking and coughing while breastfeeding.
2. If you cough or sneeze during breastfeeding, change masks immediately.
3. Follow hygiene rules if using manual or mechanical ways to get break milk, and disinfect breast pumps afterward.
4. It's recommended to let healthy people use cups or spoons to feed babies with pumped breast milk.