Dr Adrian Kwok
Head of Obstetrics
Mater Hospital, North Sydney
Many patients have recently expressed concern about the risk Coronavirus poses to them and their unborn baby. Though evidence is limited, current research suggests pregnant women are not at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19 compared to the general population, however what we know about this virus is changing all the time. For now, if you’re pregnant, you should comply with recommendations that government and health authorities have made for everyone, to ensure you’re taking the necessary precautions to protect both yourself and your baby. Staying at home, working from home, practicing good hygiene, and social distancing when out in public is the best way to protect yourself. Here are the top five things you need to know about Coronavirus and pregnancy:
1) Protecting your baby in utero and as a newborn
Early research has not shown any evidence that the virus can be transmitted in utero, during delivery or through breast milk. Transmission can occur though after birth when infants are in close contact with someone who has the virus. Health experts agree more data is needed to fully assess newborns’ risk of contracting the virus.
For breastfeeding mothers, if you have no symptoms, then hand hygiene is key. If you do show symptoms, it is recommended that you express breast milk or opt for formula if you wish and have someone else feed your baby.
If you do decide to breastfeed your child and you have symptoms, then it’s best to wear a mask and wash your hands thoroughly beforehand, to limit the chances of the virus being passed onto your child. The decision to breastfeed or not should be made together with your paediatrician and the hospital.
2) Picking the ‘safest’ birth choice
There is no evidence to suggest that either C-section or vaginal birthing is safer if you contract Coronavirus. You should make this decision with your GP or health care provider. The advice from health authorities is to stick to your birth plan and certainly do not make drastic changes without expert advice. Hospitals have medical staff on hand who can monitor you and your baby to ensure a safe and supported labour.
3) Hospitals are taking relevant precautions
For those preparing for hospital stays, rest assured that hospital staff are taking the appropriate precautions to protect patients, families and staff. This includes restricting visitors, ensuring waiting rooms aren’t crowded, that the hospital is cleaned and disinfected above usual high standards in line with State and Federal health department guidelines and other current evidence, and that
patients are well separated.
4) Attending pre-natal appointments
It’s best that pre-natal check-ups continue as they are critical in tracking the health and progress of your baby. Ensure you maintain a good line of communication with your obstetrician or health care provider and follow their advice about whether the appointments should take place in-person or online. Some visits may be combined or deferred after appropriate telephone consultations, especially if there is no concern about foetal movements and general maternal wellbeing.
5) Stay in, practice good hygiene, and social distance yourself when out
If you have been exposed to someone experiencing symptoms, contact your GP by phone rather than going directly. Your GP will advise you if you need to be tested for COVID-19. You should also notify your obstetrician.
When it comes to prevention, pregnant women use the same precautions as the general public to avoid infection. This includes:
• Staying at home, working from home, and social distancing when out in public – this is the best way to protect yourself.
• Washing your hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
• Avoiding people who are sick
• Covering your cough (using your elbow is a good technique) if you are ill
If you have any further specific questions in relation to COVID-19 visit the NSW Health webpage.
About Dr Adrian Kwok
Dr Adrian Kwok is a leading obstetrician and gynaecologist based on the lower North Shore of Sydney. His exceptional level of expertise in low- and high-risk pregnancies and gynaecological conditions is underpinned by almost 25 years’ experience in the field. He is head of obstetrics at Mater Private Hospital in North Sydney where his consulting rooms are based.