The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is now in every state in the United States. So far, the CDC reports that there’s no evidence that pregnant women are at greater risk for the virus than the general public. But according to the American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), they should still be considered an at-risk group for the virus. There’s also no confirmation that the virus can be transmitted from mother to baby in the womb. To protect yourself and those around you, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, wear a non-surgical face mask in public settings, and practice “social distancing,” which means putting at least six feet between yourself and others. Not everyone will show the symptoms of COVID-19 – fever and dry cough among them – so stay home if you can. If you have a fever, cough, shortness of breath, or are worried you might have been exposed to COVID-19, call your doctor right away. Also ask your doctor how you should handle your prenatal appointments and tests.
The data on pregnancy and the novel coronavirus is severely limited, but according to the American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, COVID-19 may pose a similar, elevated risk to pregnant women as the flu.
Symptoms and calling your doctor
The symptoms of the coronavirus (COVID-19) are similar to colds and other common respiratory illness. They include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
According to the CDC, symptoms can appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should be in contact with your doctor (even if you think there’s no way it’s COVID-19). And be sure to call your provider should you have any other worrying symptoms or medical concerns.
As the coronavirus continues to impact the U.S., the basic services you rely on won’t be going back to normal for weeks. If you haven’t already, contact your OB or midwife and discuss a plan for continuing your care and how to handle your prenatal testing. You may also want to stock up on key supplies for your pregnancy and recovery such as food and medicines.
How to protect yourself from COVID-19
While there’s no vaccine available for the coronavirus, all of the CDC’s recommended preventive measures are the same as those you’d use to protect yourself from the flu:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners also are effective.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue away.
- Put used tissues in the trash immediately.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you get sick with a fever and respiratory symptoms, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Maintain your immune system by getting plenty of rest, sleep and a nutritious balanced diet.
- If you’re in a place where soap and water aren’t available, the CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. If your hands are visibly dirty, wash them with soap and water as soon as you can.
Finally, it bears repeating that social distancing is a highly recommended step to take in protecting yourself and your family. Limiting contact with others outside your immediate family can reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Keeping calm and dealing with COVID-19 stress
If you’re worried about the coronavirus, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s perfectly normal to be feeling more anxious during pregnancy even when everything is okay in the world. Dealing with your stress head on and taking care of yourself in this time is the best thing you can do for a healthier pregnancy. Consider:
- Just say no and slow down or even cut down on your to-do list. Now is not the time to be a rock star.
- Drop or reassign some chores. Use the time you get back to decompress with a book, a nap, or however you prefer to relax.
- Use sick or vacation days, if you have them, to just concentrate on yourself and staying calm.
- Give deep breathing, meditation, stretching, or yoga a try.
- Get outside when you can for a walk (while avoiding others, of course).
- Plan healthy, well-balanced, and energy-boosting meals and snacks.
- Go to bed early.
- Skip the news overload. Yes, the coronavirus is a fast-changing story with developments that you probably should know about. But you don’t need to be tapped into the newsfeed all day long. Also, avoid the more panicked social media pals or feeds you follow. Get your information from experts, not social media. You need to be informed, but you don’t need to be crazed. Focus on yourself and your health.
Before Your Appointment
If you have cough, congestion, fever, runny nose, or other symptoms suggestive of an illness, we kindly ask you first contact our office before visiting. We can assist you via the telephone and coordinate your next step, whether it be with your PCP or another medical professional. Thank you for your consideration in this matter as we work to keep our staff and patients healthy.
Dr. Neera Bhatia and staff are committed to women’s health and are monitoring the rapidly changing events related to coronavirus (COVID-19). For more information about pregnancy or breastfeeding, contact Dr. Neera Bhatia, your San Antonio OB/GYN today at (210) 222-2694!0