The risks of having Covid during pregnancy

Dr. Shamim Patel

November 9, 2023

Pregnancy is a time of profound joy and anticipation, but the global COVID-19 pandemic has added an extra layer of concern for expectant mothers. The risks and uncertainties associated with COVID-19 during pregnancy have become a topic of significant importance for both mothers and healthcare providers. In this article, we explore the unique challenges and risks that COVID-19 presents to pregnant women and its potential effects on their unborn babies while shedding light on prevention strategies and the role of healthcare professionals.

1. The Unique Concern: COVID-19 and Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a period of heightened vulnerability and physical changes, making it crucial for expectant mothers to understand the specific risks and considerations related to COVID-19. Here are some key factors that make COVID-19 a unique concern during pregnancy:

• Immune System Changes: Pregnancy changes the immune system to protect the growing fetus. These changes may affect how the body responds to infections, potentially making pregnant women more susceptible to severe illness from COVID-19.

• Increased Respiratory Infections: Pregnant women have a higher risk of respiratory infections, and COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory illness. This places expectant mothers at greater risk of respiratory complications if infected with the virus.

• Potential Vertical Transmission: While the risk is low, there have been instances of vertical transmission, where the virus may pass from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby. This possibility has added to the concerns surrounding COVID-19 and pregnancy.

2. The Possible Risks to the Mother

COVID-19 can present a range of risks to pregnant women. It’s essential to be aware of these potential complications and take steps to mitigate them:

• Increased Severity of Symptoms: Pregnant women with COVID-19 may experience more severe symptoms compared to non-pregnant individuals. Symptoms can include fever, difficulty breathing, cough, and fatigue.

• Risk of Preterm Birth: There is evidence suggesting that COVID-19 may increase the risk of preterm birth (delivering the baby before 37 weeks of gestation). Preterm birth can lead to health complications for both the baby and the mother.

• Higher Risk of Hospitalization: Pregnant women with COVID-19 are at a higher risk of requiring hospitalization for respiratory issues and other complications. Hospitalization can be stressful and can pose additional risks.

3. Potential Risks to the Unborn Baby

While the risks to the mother are better understood, there are still many unknowns regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the unborn baby. Research is ongoing, but here are some potential risks to consider:

• Vertical Transmission: While rare, vertical transmission of COVID-19 from the mother to the baby is a concern. This transmission can result in neonatal infection, and its effects are still being studied.

• Preterm Birth and Low Birth Weight: As mentioned earlier, COVID-19 may increase the risk of preterm birth. Babies born prematurely can face health challenges, including low birth weight, respiratory problems, and developmental issues.

• Fetal Distress: The physiological changes that occur in a mother with COVID-19 can lead to fetal distress, affecting the baby’s overall well-being.

4. Managing COVID-19 During Pregnancy: Prevention and Care

While the risks are natural, it’s essential to understand that many pregnant women with COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms and go on to have healthy pregnancies and babies. To mitigate the risks, it is crucial to focus on prevention and care:

• Prevention: Pregnant women should adhere to COVID-19 prevention measures such as practicing good hand hygiene, wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and avoiding crowded places. Vaccination is also recommended, as it is safe and effective for pregnant individuals.

• Early Detection: Pregnant women should be vigilant about COVID-19 symptoms and get tested if they suspect they have been exposed or are experiencing symptoms. Early detection allows for timely medical care and reduces the risk of complications.

• Prenatal Care: Regular prenatal care is essential. Healthcare providers can monitor the health of both the mother and the baby and guide them in managing COVID-19 during pregnancy.

• Support and Self-Care: Emotional well-being is essential during pregnancy. The stress and uncertainty of the pandemic can take a toll on mental health, so it’s vital to seek support, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and prioritize self-care.

5. Seeking Expert Guidance: The Role of Healthcare Professionals

Navigating COVID-19 during pregnancy is a complex journey, and expectant mothers need to seek guidance and support from healthcare professionals. Here are some key points regarding the role of healthcare providers:

• Regular Check-ups: Regular prenatal check-ups are crucial for monitoring the mother’s health and the baby’s development. Healthcare providers can provide information and recommendations specific to the individual’s circumstances.

• Vaccination Guidance: Healthcare providers can discuss the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant individuals. Vaccination has been shown to protect against severe illness and can benefit both the mother and the baby.

• High-Risk Considerations: Healthcare providers can tailor their care to address specific concerns and minimize potential risks if a pregnant woman has preexisting medical conditions or other risk factors.

• Emotional Support: Dealing with the anxieties and uncertainties of COVID-19 during pregnancy can be challenging. Healthcare providers can offer emotional support and connect patients with mental health resources.

The risks associated with COVID-19 during pregnancy are real and should not be taken lightly. Pregnant women are vulnerable to respiratory infections and may experience more severe symptoms if infected with the virus.

Additionally, there are potential risks to the unborn baby, including preterm birth and possible vertical transmission.
However, it’s essential to understand that many pregnant women with COVID-19 have safe pregnancies and deliver healthy babies. Prevention measures, regular prenatal care, vaccination, and support from healthcare professionals are crucial to mitigate risks. COVID-19 adds an extra layer of concern to pregnancy, but with the proper precautions and guidance, expectant mothers can navigate these uncharted waters with confidence and care.