The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread and there are new developments with each passing day. Women who are currently pregnant or are planning a pregnancy are naturally anxious and are looking for answers to various questions. This article answers frequently asked questions (FAQs) with regard to COVID-19, pregnancy, and lactation.

Pregnancy, also known as gestation, is the time during which one or more offspring (the young ones of living organisms) develops inside a woman. In other words, it is the period in which a fetus (baby-to-be) develops inside a woman’s womb. Pregnancy usually lasts for about 40 weeks (9 months) and is divided into 3 primary segments or trimesters. Lactation is the process of milk secretion from the mammary glands of a pregnant woman, soon after childbirth. 

10 Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19, Pregnancy, and Lactation

1. What is COVID-19? How does it spread?

Coronavirus Disease 2019 or COVID-19 is an infection caused by a novel (new) coronavirus called SARS- CoV-2 . It may present with symptoms similar to that of a flu-like running nose, sore throat, fever, dry cough; or severe symptoms like breathing difficulty, pneumonia, diarrhea, extreme fatigue, and weakness. Sometimes patients may present with unusual symptoms like loss of sense of smell or foot rashes. Usually, symptoms start about 5-7 days after exposure to an infected person, occasionally after 10-12 days, and very rarely after 28 days of exposure.

2. How can COVID-19 affect your pregnancy?

Studies suggest that pregnant women have a low to moderate risk for more severe illness from COVID-19.

  • Pregnant women who show symptoms of COVID-19 or who are infected with COVID-19 might need intensive care unit (ICU) support, depending on the severity of the symptoms. 

  • Pregnant women with pre-existing health conditions, such as obesity and gestational diabetes, may have an even higher risk of severe illness due to COVID-19.

  • COVID- 19 does not seem to increase the chances of miscarriage (an event that results in a loss of feutus before the 20th week of pregnancy) or preterm delivery (birth that occurs before the 37th week of pregnancy).

3. What about your routine tests/ scans and checkups?

A low-risk pregnancy with no other associated risks can be monitored with minimal possible antenatal (before birth) visits. 

  • Usually, a visit will be advised at around 11-14 weeks with the NT scan and double marker test. The nuchal translucency (NT) scan is a common pregnancy scan that aims to measure the size of the back of the baby’s neck. The double marker test is a comprehensive screening test done to detect any chromosomal inabilities in the fetus.

  • Another visit in the second trimester is recommended for an anomaly scan (a mid-pregnancy ultrasound scan). 

  • Finally, 1 or 2 visits may be planned in the third trimester, along with a growth scan (ultrasound scan to determine the growth of the baby) and required blood tests. 

Vaccination can be taken and blood tests can be given during the above visits. High risks pregnancy would require additional monitoring. Check about the number of visits/tests required with your doctor. 

4. Will you need to be tested for COVID-19?

Your health care provider/doctor may ask for a COVID-19 test if you have suggestive symptoms, travel history to an affected place, or history of exposure to an infected person. 

A swab will be taken from your nose or throat for testing. Additional tests like an X-ray or CT (computerized tomography) scan that combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angles around your body) may be asked depending on your condition.

5.  Can COVID-19 affect your delivery?

COVID-19 generally does not affect the mode of delivery. A vaginal delivery can be conducted with adequate precautions by the medical team, as a mother to child transmission of COVID-19 is very minimum. A patient with severely compromised respiratory status may require emergent delivery by a cesarean (also known as C-section or the surgical delivery of a baby).

6. What to do in case of an emergency?

You can contact the emergency number of your doctor/hospital and inform them about your condition and follow their advice. 

If you need to travel to the hospital: 

  • You can call for an ambulance.

  • You can also travel by a private car, if you have access and help.

  • Avoid public transport. If public transport is unavoidable, ensure to wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 

If you are suspected/infected with COVID-19, please inform your health care providers in advance, so they can make the necessary arrangements to ensure the safety of all. 

7. Is it safe to breastfeed if you have a COVID-19 infection? Can breastfeeding pass the infection to your baby?

Yes, you can breastfeed your baby, even if you are a suspected/infected case of COVID-19, after consulting your obstetrician and neonatologist. Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for your baby as it will help protect your baby from infections and illnesses. Take the following precautions while breastfeeding to avoid spreading infections:

  • Wear a face mask while breastfeeding (including when feeding at the breast or feeding from a bottle).

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, before and after feeding.

  • If you use a breast pump, make sure to clean and sanitize them as well.

The transmission of the COVID-19 virus through breast milk and breastfeeding has not been significantly detected yet. There are new developments every day with regard to COVID-19. Talk to your doctor to understand the latest developments and act accordingly.

8. Will your baby be tested for COVID-19?

Your baby may require testing if you are a suspected/infected case of COVID-19, as per the guidance of your neonatologist, or if your baby has suggestive symptoms.

9. How can I maintain respiratory and hand hygiene?

  • Wear a mask to cover your mouth and nose, whenever you come in contact with other people. 

  • Sanitize/wash your hands before wearing the mask. 

  •  Avoid touching your mask too often.  

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a handkerchief /tissue while coughing or sneezing. If you cannot cover your mouth and nose with your hand, sneeze/cough into your elbow. 

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, at regular intervals. If you don't have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 

  • Maintain social distancing (a minimum of 6 feet distance is recommended).

10. What care should you take after going home? What precautions do you need to take?

  • Ensure good hygiene to protect you and your baby from diseases. 

  • Eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet throughout your pregnancy and lactation.  

  • Avoid too many visitors or functions at your home. You can conduct rituals with only your family members and use social media to involve friends and relatives. 

  • Maintain the least possible contact with people who move in and out of the house on a regular basis. 

  • Wear a face mask on all social occasions and maintain physical distancing. 

  • Ensure that all members of the family wear masks, maintain respiratorily, and hand hygiene when they come in contact with you and/or your baby.

Following all the necessary precautions will help you get through your pregnancy and lactation safely. Talk to your doctor/gynaecologist/paediatrician regularly and follow instructions accordingly.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.