If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you are probably extremely concerned about the possibility of contracting coronavirus and that the impact that it could have on the health of your baby.
Risk levels if you are pregnant
As you may have heard or read, although the “coronavirus family” is known to science, little is known about COVID-19, since it is a recent mutation.
For this reason, it is not yet clear whether pregnant women are more at risk of COVID-19 infection than other people1,2.
What is proven is that pregnant women are more likely to contract influenza (caused by another class of virus) and to contract infections caused by viruses of the same family as COVID-19.
Thus, it is reasonable to be cautious to act under the assumption that there is a possibility of infection and to take all possible preventive measures during your pregnancy to minimise the risk.
There are some simple measures that you can follow. Maintain good hygiene, wash your hands frequently, use sanitizing gel and clean the surfaces of your house. Do not leave home if it is not essential and definitely avoid crowded places. If you can avoid having visitors, do that too. Also, eat properly and rest well, to take care of your immune system.
If infected, would COVID-19 affect your baby?
Several recent studies indicate that the virus does not pass into the placenta or amniotic fluid3 and, until now, all babies born to mothers with the virus have been born healthy4,5.
However, what is not known at the moment is the the impact the infection could have on the pregnancy if it is contracted at the beginning of the pregnancy. The virus is still very new and such a study has not yet been done. For this reason, the best action at the moment is prevention.
But what if you are breastfeeding?
The studies that have been carried out have found no traces of the virus in the milk of mothers who have been infected. That is, for now, everything indicates that COVID-19 is not spread through breastfeeding6.
Various specialists agree that, even if the mother is infected, continuing to breastfeed the baby is the best decision7.
Remember that breast milk is the ideal food for babies. It provides all the necessary nutrients for his physical and mental development and also builds an emotional bond with you.
But not only that. If you were to get infected, your body would create a set of specific antibodies that will pass into your milk in order to protect your baby. In other words, the infection in the mother's body causes her milk to protect the baby from the virus.
However, remember that even if your baby has the additional protection provided by your milk, if you are infected, you still need to protect him from your sneezes and/or coughs, and touch him only after your hands are washed and/or sanitized.
To prevent your baby from getting infected, you should use mouth covers when breastfeeding and practice the highest levels of hygiene. You also have the option of manually expressing milk and having someone else feed your baby for you.
In case of any doubt you should consult your doctor or health professional who will advise you on the best way, both for your health and for that of your baby and the rest of your family.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; 17 February 2020). Frequently Asked Questions and Answers: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and Pregnancy. Accessed 20 February 2020 via: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/pregnancy-faq....
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; 15 February 2020). Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Frequently Asked Questions and Answers. . Accessed 19 February 2020 via: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html
3. Chen H, Guo J, Wang C, et al. Clinical characteristics and intrauterine vertical transmission potential of COVID-19 infection in nine pregnant women: a retrospective review of medical records. Lancet 2020; Published 12 February 2020. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30360-3
4. Lam, C.M., Wong, S.F., Leung, T.N., Chow, K.M., Yu, W.C., Wong, T.Y., Lai, S.T. and Ho, L.C. (2004), A case-controlled study comparing clinical course and outcomes of pregnant and nonpregnant women with severe acute respiratory syndrome. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 111: 771-774.
5. Shek CC, Ng PC, Fung GP, et al. Infants born to mothers with severe acute respiratory syndrome. Pediatrics 2003; 112: e254. UNICEF (February 2020). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): What parents should know. Accessed 18 February 2020 via : https://www.unicef.org/es/historias/coronavirus-lo-que-los-padres-deben-...
6. Redigolo T. Coronavirus with a baby: Can I breastfeed while infected with COVID-19? Express Online. 13 March 2020. https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/1255041/Coronavirus-babies-n... (Accessed 16 March 2020).
7. Center for Disease Control. COVID-19 Pregnancy & Breastfeeding, Information about Coronavirus Disease. 2020 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/pregnancy-breastfeedin... (Accessed 20 March 2020).