A pandemic pregnancy—something you may not have had in your five-year plan. But here we are. Suddenly, there’s a bunch of extra measures we need to take to keep safe. Yep, it’s not just about skipping the sashimi anymore. So, let’s work through some of the big questions: What if you get Covid while pregnant? What are the risks to you and your baby? And what can you do to protect yourself?
Covid and pregnancy
First, the good news: overall, the risk of severe illness from having Covid-19 while pregnant is low.
The bad news is that you’re more likely to end up in the ICU with respiratory issues if you are pregnant than if you are not. So it’s important to take steps to protect yourself against the virus.
The research is ongoing, but here’s what we know so far about getting Covid while pregnant:
For you: As this study tells us, the most common symptoms appear to be fever and a cough. Most times, you should be able to treat this at home. In more serious cases, you’ll need to go to hospital.
Severe illness and death are more of a threat if you are pregnant—and this is, of course, where the worry comes in. Certain risk factors seem to increase the likelihood of severe disease:
- Age (which is an added risk factor, pregnant or not)
For your baby: Covid appears to increase the chance of preterm birth, as well as the odds of your baby being admitted to the NICU. The research is ongoing, but there also seems to be a link between Covid and miscarriage in the first trimester.
What happens if you get Covid while pregnant?
If you think you have Covid symptoms, you were exposed to a positive case, or both, get in touch with your local health authority to find out how they would like you to proceed. Tell them you’re pregnant, and they will advise you about testing and on how to take care of yourself as you recover.
Here’s what to watch out for:
- Shortness of breath
- Body aches
- Loss of taste or smell
- Nasal congestion
- Nausea or vomiting
(Of course, some of these are common pregnancy symptoms, so it can be a bit confusing. If you’re concerned at all, it’s best to check.)
Then, the CDC has also outlined emergency Covid symptoms that require immediate medical attention. If you have any of these, call 911 right away:
- Serious difficult breathing
- Chest pain
- Extreme fatigue (as in, you can’t stay awake or can’t wake up)
- Lips, skin and nail bed change color, usually becoming pale or blue.
How to keep yourself safe
The best thing you can do is to take all the precautions possible to prevent yourself from contracting Covid. That being said, life in a pandemic is what it is, and the possibility of getting the virus exists.
Our best line of defense right now is the Covid vaccine—and early studies suggest it is safe for pregnant women to get. Any side effects you may experience from the vaccine are of far less concern than the risk of contracting Covid.
If you have questions about the vaccine—or about Covid and pregnancy in general—chat to your doctor about your options. While it’s not required that you talk to your healthcare provider before getting vaccinated, it’s useful to help you feel secure in your choice.
The CDC and FDA both recommend a great resource called MotherToBaby, an NGO that conducts research on the safety of medications and vaccines. They provide a no-cost info service for mamas-to-be to answer questions about the safety of exposure to vaccines during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
Other ways to keep safe? Stick to all the basics that are now very much a part of our lives. Practice physical distancing, wash your hands, wear a mask, sneeze into your elbow rather than your hand. If you feel symptoms coming on, isolate and get in touch with your doctor to figure out next steps.
And importantly, don’t delay going to the emergency room out of the fear of contracting Covid. Yes, the fear is legitimate. These are scary times. But emergency rooms are equipped to keep everyone in their environment as safe as possible.
The challenges that have come with this phase of history are real. Now, perhaps more than ever, there’s a need for strong communities. Join us on Peanut for compassionate talk about life in the time of Covid. We don’t have to navigate this alone.
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