Coronavirus: What we know about its impact on pregnant women and babies

Posted at 10:27 PM, Mar 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-17 06:10:41-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — During the coronavirus pandemic, pregnant women should be especially careful.

It’s still being heavily researched and right now there is still little known about how COVID-19 can affect pregnant women and their unborn babies.

“While the data is limited, we are looking at the past behavior of genetically similar viruses like SARS and MERS and those did have an impact on early pregnancy and somewhat throughout pregnancy, as well as on the babies,” March of Dimes Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rahul Gupta.

“We also know that pregnancy tends to be a high-risk factor for other similar viruses in the past, including H1N1,” Gupta added.

During pregnancy a women’s immune system isn’t as quick to respond to illness.

Right now, it’s unknown if a mother can transmit the virus to her baby, but some COVID-19 symptoms can increase the risk of certain birth defects.

“When you have high temperatures meaning fevers during pregnancy that has the ability to have an impact on the baby as well, adversely,” Gupta explained.

"Vertical transmission from placenta to baby, we have not seen anything of such, however we have seen case reports from China that shows a number of infants did contract COVID. While they had fair to good outcomes, its important to note, vertical transmission or through placenta is not the only way the baby can get infection from the mom," Gupta added.

Dr. Gupta says it’s important for pregnant women to continue with their prenatal visits, stay up to date on vaccines and maintain a good diet and sleep schedule, while exercising good caution.

“Whenever new diseases and novel viruses are introduced, information is slow to develop, we certainly do not have adequate information in regards to pregnancy, but that should not be taken that it’s safe,” he said.

“At the same time we want to make sure that as this information develops that pregnant woman are exercising an abundance of caution and are talking to their health care providers,” he added.

Pregnant women in the workplace should be discussing alternate work options with their employers, in the meantime they also should highly consider changing all travel plans.

You can find up to date information from the CDC and March of Dimes, here.