Instead of dwelling on a new baby bag and curating the perfect baby registry, other concerns are on the minds of pregnant women during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to current data on pregnancy during COVID-19 from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, pregnant women are known to be at greater risk of severe morbidity and mortality from respiratory infections such as influenza and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-associated coronavirus. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the two groups advise medical professionals to be diligent when evaluating pregnant women.
The two groups put out an algorithm meant to guide practitioners in assessing pregnant women who might have COVID-19. The patient is at an elevated risk and needs care in an emergency department or to a setting where she can be isolated if she meets any of the following criteria:
- difficulty breathing or shortness of breath,
- difficulty completing a sentence without gasping for air,
- coughing more than a teaspoon of blood,
- new pain or pressure in the chest other than pain with coughing,
- being unable to keep liquids down,
- signs of dehydration such as dizziness when standing,
- being less responsive than normal or becomes confused when talking with her.
It is unclear whether COVID-19 can cross the transplacental route to the fetus.
Here are some tips for pregnant women in Texas and beyond.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created many new rules and boundaries both in regular life and in health care. My advice for pregnant women is first and foremost to follow all local and national recommendations about travel and social distancing,” wrote Dr. George Macones, chair and professor in the Department of Women’s Health at the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin.
“Talk to your doctor for advice and be aware that many are advising that some prenatal visits can be done with telehealth; this is a reasonable thing to do. Lastly, this is a very stressful time, so take steps to stay mentally healthy.”
Here’s Reform Austin’s story on maintaining mental health during the pandemic.
Dr. Kjersti Aagaard, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine, provided insight on how quickly uncertainty and new stress has fallen upon pregnant women.
“We recognize that there is considerable unanticipated stress and uncertainty for pregnant women, and the world today is dramatically different than it was a mere three months ago. We are advising our patients to work one -on-one with their midwife or obstetrical provider to find the right answers for their individual care needs in their pregnancy.”
“Some patients will continue to need highly individualized and focused care because of high-risk conditions. Other women may be able to space out their visits. Work with your provider to find the best solution that is tailored to you and your baby’s case and needs. Be safe, practice social distancing, and remember we are here as devoted obstetrical providers 24/7 whenever and wherever you need us.”
While concerns rise for pregnant women about the screening process to get into a delivery room, Texas Monthly reported this week that Texas hospitals and doctors are taking steps to make sure the birth process is as safe as possible. Doctors are conducting appointments over the phone and spacing out checkups to reduce the potential of pregnant women being infected with COVID-19.
“Unfortunately, much remains unknown on the implications of COVID-19 on pregnant women. The CDC has not yet released information regarding whether pregnant women are more susceptible to catching the illness, or whether there could be adverse effects for the baby,” wrote Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin), a former critical care nurse.
“As a nurse, my advice to pregnant women would be to follow the same guidelines for the general public — practice good hygiene and stay home as much as possible. This is particularly applicable to pregnant women since it is important for them to protect themselves from illnesses in general,” she shared in an email.
Howard said there is work for legislators to do.
“First and foremost, [Gov. Greg Abbott] should expand Medicaid eligibility requirements in order to immediately cover about 1.5 million currently uninsured Texans,” she said. “A healthier population translates to an easier fight against the virus. Then, Governor Abbott should extend postpartum Medicaid coverage from 2 months to 12 months to assure Texas mothers they will have access to healthcare should they experience any health complications, including COVID-19.”
“Finally, he should waive the periodic income checks for the parents or caretakers of children on Medicaid to ensure that they do not lose their coverage due to red tape, especially due to negative economic impacts of pandemic containment on the paychecks of families.”
For answers to questions on pregnancy and COVID-19, please see this important insight from Aagaard here: FAQ: pregnancy and COVID-19.