For pregnant women, cold and flu season can feel overwhelming. Now with coronavirus in the United States, many pregnant women feel even more confused and frightened. Experts aren’t sure what coronavirus in pregnancy is like, or if coronavirus has any effect on pregnancy. But they do know that people who practice good hygiene can protect themselves.
“It’s hard to completely say exactly what the clinical course would be for a pregnant woman,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security and an infectious disease physician, told TODAY Parents. “We do know in general with respiratory infections that pregnant women are at increased risk for having more severe cases.”
Coronavirus in pregnancy
Pregnant women tend to have more serious flu infections than people the same age who aren't pregnant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s because pregnancy changes the immune system somewhat and lung capacity decreases as a woman’s pregnancy progresses. Though this doesn’t mean that pregnant women will experience coronavirus more severely. There are just not enough studies on pregnant women and coronavirus for experts to say.
“There were some reports of women who are pregnant that have been published, but they're very small numbers,” Adalja said.
While this might sound worrisome, the experts recommend that pregnant women follow the same smart behaviors that everyone should practice.
“This is a virus that doesn’t have a vaccine or any kind of treatment so the best protection is really just common sense hygiene that you would use during flu season anyway,” Adalja said.
Wash your hands, avoid sick people
This means frequent and proper hand washing. Pregnant women (and all people) should use soap and warm water and rub their hands — including their palms, wrists and between fingers — together vigorously for 20 seconds or about the length of “Happy Birthday.”
“Wash your hands, avoid sick individuals, if you are sick cover your cough,” Adalja said.
While influenza is a different virus than coronavirus, pregnant women should get a flu shot if they have not already received one. It will protect them from getting the flu, which can be more serious in pregnant women. And, fewer flu infections means that doctors can focus their resources and energy on helping patients with coronavirus.
“The more people that are vaccinated against influenza, the less of a burden we're going to have in our hospitals,” Adalja said. “We need to have room to take care of patients that may have the novel coronavirus.”
Do you need a mask if you're pregnant? Nope
Pregnant women do not need to buy masks to protect themselves. Only N95 respirators are effective and a mask prevents you from spreading coronavirus.
"If you put a mask on if you’re sick, that prevents you from spreading the germs to other people,” Dan McGee a pediatric specialist at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, told TODAY Parents. “But to go out in public wearing a mask, especially the flimsy lightweight surgical mask you see people wearing, it's not going to prevent the virus from coming in contact with you.”