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New Data about COVID-19, Pregnant Women and Babies

  • Category: COVID-19
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New Data about COVID-19, Pregnant Women and Babies

Pregnancy during the time of COVID-19 raises numerous questions and concerns. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that pregnant women have an increased risk of developing severe COVID-19 in comparison to non-pregnant women of childbearing age. The CDC also revealed pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized, admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and intubated.

According to Dr. Rachel Beck, MD, OB/GYN at Salinas Valley Medical Clinic Healthcare for Women, and Chief of Staff at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, this new data calls for some clarification.

“One of the problems with all this new information is that there's so much coming, so fast, and it's sometimes difficult to digest what is relevant, what's not relevant, what's real, what's not real,” says Dr. Beck. “However, this new information is something we take very seriously. The good news is that the data does not show any increased risk in mortality. So, that's a plus,” she states.

To listen to an interview on this topic with Dr. Rachel Beck, OB/GYN at Salinas Valley Medical Clinic Healthcare for Women, and Chief of Staff at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, click here.

Another issue with the study is that it did not separate out women being admitted to the hospital for non-COVID reasons. Pregnant women are more likely to be admitted to the hospital, simply from pregnancy complications. This study did not separate out COVID-specific hospitalizations with obstetric-related hospitalization.

“Unfortunately that complicates the data a little bit, but we have to assume the worst; take it seriously and just continue to study the effects of COVID-19 in pregnant women,” adds Dr. Beck.

Information that has remained consistent since the beginning of the pandemic includes rare transmission of the virus from mother to baby and that it is safe to breastfeed even if the mother is COVID-19 positive.

Preparatory Self-Quarantine, In-Hospital Experience

Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital is recommending pregnant women self-quarantine at about 37 weeks gestation approximately three weeks before due date in order to limit contact with anyone outside the household. It’s also encouraged that other members of the household limit outside contact as much as possible.

“At this time, we do not have the capabilities to test every pregnant patient. But, we do test patients who have a scheduled C-section since we know the day they will be coming in for their surgery. They will be tested for COVID-19 approximately four days before their scheduled procedure,” explains Dr. Beck.

If a woman tests positive, she and her physician team have a conversation about whether or not the baby should be separated. Some women prefer to still have skin-to-skin contact and direct breastfeeding (as opposed to pumping breast milk).

“We respect their decisions, and we have an informed consent. If a mom and baby are not separated, we take all of the appropriate precautions of hand-washing and masking the mom,” notes Dr. Beck. “The one good thing about pregnant women and babies is that we always wash our hands before we pick up newborns, well prior to COVID. So, we're just being even more diligent about that process.”

In the Weeks After

Once mom and baby have returned home, Dr. Beck urges limiting large gatherings and practicing mask-wearing and social distancing when engaging with guests. “I know when you have a newborn, everybody wants to come by and see the new baby. Nowadays I think that the new norm should be limiting who comes over to see your baby.”

Safety Always Comes First

Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital has taken the highest level of precautionary measures to ensure all their patients feel safe pregnant or otherwise. Staggering appointments, performing screenings (temperature checks, questions about potential symptoms), not allowing any extra visitors, and offering video visits via telehealth services are all actions the hospital has implemented.

“I still say the safest place to give birth is in the hospital. We have lots of protocols and processes in place to keep the patients safe from COVID-19, but then also from all the obstetric concerns and complications that can arise,” assures Dr. Beck. “Hands down, the safest place to have your baby is in the hospital.”