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What to Expect: COVID-19 Concerns for New Mothers

  • Category: COVID-19
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What to Expect: COVID-19 Concerns for New Mothers

Note: This interview was done in April 2020, prior to any new/recent information on COVID-19 and pregnancy. For the most up-to-date research, click here.

Even as COVID-19 has disrupted many aspects of our lives, life goes on overall. Quite literally in the case of expectant mothers, who must navigate not only a global pandemic, but do so while concerned for the health and well-being of their unborn child.

Rachel Beck, MD, a practicing OB/GYN and Chief of Staff at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (SVMH), recently provided some insight into this delicate topic as well as what the hospital is doing to ensure mothers and babies remain safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“So far, the studies that have been done on pregnant patients have not shown any transmission of the virus to the fetus,” says Rachel Beck, MD.

Dr. Beck adds that this is based on limited data, since COVID-19 hasn’t been around long enough for a significant body of knowledge to accumulate on this point. However, according to her the data to date is promising. “The deliveries we know about and most of the data coming out of China has shown no vertical transmission.”

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

The greater concern is transmission of COVID-19 after delivery. “Could she transmit the infection to her child post-delivery, just like she could transmit it to any other person in her household?” asks Dr. Beck. “That’s where we have to be careful.”

“The good news is that what we know so far about the virus, it does not seem to affect pregnant women any worse than the non-pregnant population,” says Dr. Beck. “That’s different from influenza, where we know that if a pregnant woman is infected with influenza, her infection is often worse because of her pregnancy.”

This doesn’t mean that pregnant women are uniquely safe from COVID-19. Dr. Beck says they must take all the same general precautions as everyone else, including sheltering in place, social distancing, wearing a mask when around others and washing their hands. As mentioned above, a new mother with COVID-19 could potentially transmit the virus to her newborn. Dr. Beck advises expecting and new mothers do what they can to decrease that risk of transmission to them and their other family members.

To ensure mother, baby and hospital staff all remain safe from COVID-19, Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital is asking pregnant women to self-quarantine starting at 37 weeks of pregnancy. They are being asked to stay home and to not venture out if possible until they go to the hospital to give birth.

While many hospitals around the country have strict restrictions and are not allowing partners in the delivery room during the birth during this pandemic, this is not the case at SVMH where we are currently allowing one person to be present during the birth.

“I think it’s really important for a patient in labor to have a support person, and we at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital are all in agreement that is an important person to have,” explains Dr. Beck. “We are allowing one person to be in the labor and delivery room with the mom.”

Dr. Beck points out Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital is following the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine (SMFM), and the American College of OB/GYN (ACOG).

“We’ve got great flowcharts on how to deal with every situation that we can think of,” explains Dr. Beck. “If we have a mom who we know is COVID positive or is a PUI, which is ‘person under investigation,’ then after she delivers her baby, her baby will be separated from her at least initially while we are evaluating the situation.”

The baby would be transferred to a newborn nursery or to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). “We’re trying to really go case by case and use the science and use all the knowledge we have and do what’s best for both mom and baby. And for the family unit as a whole,” Dr. Beck assures.

“I do have had a lot of patients asking, ‘is it safer for me to have my baby at home, instead of going to the hospital?’ And I tell them no, it is not safer to have your baby at home,” concludes Dr. Beck. “We have the right resources and they do not need to be afraid of the hospital.”