Coronavirus & Pregnancy: What Should You Be Doing

Coronavirus doesn’t seem to be severely affecting babies and children. It seems to be a larger threat for the elderly. But what does that mean for those of trying to get pregnancy or who are currently pregnant? What can we do to avoid getting coronavirus?

Is coronavirus the new Zika? Or is it more like the flu?

Coronavirus compared to SARS

It is too early to know for sure, but our best guess is to look at other coronavirus outbreaks. The coronavirus, COVID-19, is the strain causing the current outbreak. This is a specific strain of the coronavirus. SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS, are other coronavirus types that have caused outbreaks in the past.

Increased Maternal Morbidity and Mortality

In the SARS outbreak, infected pregnant women got sicker and were more likely to die than non-pregnant women. This makes sense because pregnant women are immunocompromised. Their bodies are trying to create another human and dont have the same ability to fight off infection.

In these outbreaks, the number of women known to be infected and pregnant were small, so the conclusions are weak. However, it does appear that the mortality rates were higher. Additionally, pregnant women were more likely to require mechanical ventilation than non-pregnant women.

There were fewer cases of MERS and only a handful of patients who were known to be pregnant got MERS. However, similar to SARS, the maternal morbidity and mortality was high from MERS.

It is important to note, however, that the general mortality from SARS and MERS was significantly higher than it is for COVID-19. So it is very possible that morbidity and mortality in pregnant women with COVID-19 wont be as high as it was with SARS and MERS. The general mortality of SARS was estimated to be 9-10%. Whereas, the estimated mortality from COVID-19 is 1-3%.

Increased Risk of Miscarriage and Stillbirth

For women who became infected with SARS in the first trimester, many pregnancies resulted in miscarriages. This is likely caused by a lack of oxygen to the fetus from difficulty breathing. The rates of miscarriage have historically been underreported. This is because some women choose not to report a miscarriage and some women miscarry before they know they are pregnant. Therefore the effects of infection on the risk of miscarriage could be even higher.

Increased risk of Birth Defects

This is difficult to prove. Other infections during pregnancy have been associated with increased rates of birth defects, especially cytomegalovirus or CMV. According to the CDC…

Based on limited case reports, adverse infant outcomes (e.g., preterm birth) have been reported among infants born to mothers positive for COVID-19 during pregnancy.

Additionally, high fevers, especially in the first trimester can increase the risk of birth defects. These birth defects include cleft lip, spina bifida, and brain defects.

What Should You Do?

#1. Get the flu shot.

Although there is no vaccine right now for coronavirus, there is a vaccine for the flu. Many of the risks for coronavirus are the same for the flu. Although the flu vaccine is never 100% effective, it is effective at preventing some strains of the flu. If you do get the flu, it won’t be as bad. You get some cross immunity to all flu strains with the flu vaccine. Additionally, by getting the flu shot, you can decrease your risk of getting coronavirus and the flu simultaneously. Having multiple illnesses increases your risk of having severe illness and mortality.

#2. Wash your hands.

We’ve all heard this one. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not great at it. But try to make a point of washing your hands. This is most important in crowded public places, such as the subway. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use hand sanitizer (although there does seem to currently be a shortage)

#3. Avoid Crowded Places.

This includes airplanes, subways, trains, crowded theatres, malls and sporting venues. If you do wish to go to the mall, go during off peak hours. Avoid contact with other sick individuals, even if they don’t have a positive test for coronavirus.

#4. Avoid High Fever.

If you do get sick, avoid a high fever. You can do this by regularly taking your temperature and medicating with tylenol and motrin as needed. High fevers can lead to birth defects.

If you have a fever it is important to stay hydrated, especially when you are pregnant. A fever increases your risk of dehydration. You should avoid over dressing and wearing too many blankets, even if you are experiencing chills. This could further increase your fever.

A high fever is typically considered to be a fever over 104 degrees. If you have a fever over 104 degrees you should call your doctor.

#5. Eat Healthy and Take your Prenatal Vitamins.

The best way to avoid getting sick is to be healthy. If you are healthy you will have a strong immune system that will be better equipped to fight off infection. The easiest way to improve your health when pregnant is with a prenatal vitamin. Checkout my article on the Best Prenatal Vitamins of 2020.

You should also eat healthy and exercise. This will improve your overall health and boost your body’s natural defenses against viruses.

I also wrote an article evaluating the effects of Quercetin Bromelain in treating and preventing the transmission of coronavirus and the safety in pregnant women. You can checkout that article here.