Coronavirus & Pregnancy - Dr Laura Lenihan answers your questions

Coronavirus: Your questions answered

We were delighted to have Dr. Laura Lenihan aka @drlauragp do a site take over to answer your burning questions on COVID -19 and what it means for pregnancy, postnatal stage & breastfeeding. As you can imagine we were inundated with questions!

Dr. Laura Lenihan is a GP in Galway. She is a mum to two little girls and is currently 32 weeks pregnant. Thank you so much to Dr. Laura for answering these questions and helping so many mums to be. As you are aware COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation, but this information is considered correct as of 27 March 2020.

There is a lot we still don’t know but we are learning more all the time about the virus (SARS-CoV-2) and the infection (COVID-19) that it causes.
Because we don’t have an effective vaccine or a specific antiviral treatment yet we must rely on other measures (Non Pharmacological Interventions) to help limit the spread of infection, these include:
  1. Washing your hands regularly

  2. Covering your mouth if you cough or sneeze

  3. Avoiding touching your face

  4. Keeping surfaces clean

  5. Avoiding handshakes and hugs

  6. Social (physical) distancing of 2 metres

  7. Self-isolation if you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection

  8. Self-quarantine (restricted movements), for example after travel or if you are a ‘close contact’ of someone with COVID-19 infection

It can be hard to implement these measures but at the moment it’s really critical that we all play our part in order to try and limit the spread of infection and break the chain of transmission.

Are pregnant woman in the high risk category?

The information available to date suggests that pregnant women are not a high risk group. However, when you are pregnant, your body naturally weakens your immune system, meaning that you may pick up infections more easily. With this in mind pregnant women are advised to reduce social contact through social distancing measures.
What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?
To date most cases in pregnant women have been mild - cough, mild shortness of breath, fever. A minority of pregnant women will have more severe symptoms such as lower oxygen levels, pneumonia.
Can COVID-19 affect my baby? 
To date there are only 2 cases of vertical transmission infection of a baby in the womb.  However, in these cases, it's still unclear if the virus passed to the infant during or immediately after birth. In early pregnancy there is no evidence that COVID-19 can increase chance of miscarriage. In late pregnancy there have been case reports from China showing an increase in preterm birth among pregnant women with COVID-19. 
What should I do if i think I have COVID-19?
 
Contact your local health provider for advice regarding assessment and possible testing.  Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. The GP can assess you over the phone.
If you have tested positive for COVID 19, or been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, do not go directly to hospital - you should phone ahead for further instructions on what to do. Most women who test positive have mild symptoms and can safely self isolate at home. You can check Irish hospital procedures here and UK hospital procedures here 

If I contract COVID-19 can I still give birth in a hospital?

Yes you can give birth in a hospital. You need to phone ahead to ensure adequate infection control is put in place. You will be treated the same with the staff wearing personal protection equipment eg. masks, goggles and a gown. For you and baby's benefit you will have continuous fetal and maternal monitoring and might need oxygen. All babies born to mothers with COVID-19 will be tested for COVID-19. The baby should be kept with you in an isolation area and be kept in an incubator.

This is a very worrying time for everyone and sometimes having access to accurate reliable information can help with that. It is worth using reputable sources for this such as HSE, HPSC NHS or the WHO

What we all do right now will shape the Irish outcome including the demand for ICU beds. It really is a challenging time for everyone but in order to protect our family and friends and vulnerable groups around us we must “come together by staying apart”.

Stay safe everyone.

Sources: Dr Laura Lenihan, Prof Grainne Flannelly National Maternity Hospital, Dr Cliodhna Ni Bhuachalla