The effects of COVID-19 on pregnant women, nursing moms

Local News

BIRMINGHAM, Ala (WIAT) — A recent CDC report revealed that pregnant women are at a higher risk of getting severely ill if infected with COVID-19.

Dr. Brian Casey, director of maternal-fetal medicine at UAB, said there is still a lot to learn on how the virus affects pregnant women. Casey said the good news is the virus doesn’t appear to pass on to the unborn child if the mom tests positive while pregnant.

He said he wasn’t shocked to learn from the CDC that pregnant women were at a higher risk of getting severely ill.

“We’ve seen that with other respiratory viral infections with the H1N1 viral infection from almost a decade ago. We saw there was a significant increase in severe illness in those patients and disproportionately pregnant women accounted for more deaths than you would expect. That is not the case for COVID-19 so that is some good news some early on this pandemic,” Casey said.

Casey said pregnant women should keep performing social distancing, wear a mask, and stay on track with their prenatal care.

Dr. David Kimberlin, a pediatric infectious disease doctor for Children’s of Alabama and UAB, said the reason more pregnant women were reported to be hospitalized when diagnosed with COVID-19 could have been out of an abundance of caution.

Kimberlin said nursing mothers are asking if it’s OK to breast feed their child if they test positive for COVID-19. He said it’s alright.

“The benefits of breast milk have clearly, at this point, outweigh the risk of acquisition through breastfeeding and right now there have only been suggestions of possibly transmission through breastfeeding. Some could not be through breast milk itself but simply because a nursing baby is so close to the mother and if the mother is infected herself and perhaps not wearing a mask or washing hands well, it can be transmitted that way as well,” he said.

Kimberlin suggested nursing mothers who do have COVID-19 to pump and let a non-infected person feed their child. If that’s not possible, he suggests the mom wear a mask and wash hands before nursing.

“It does help build up restraint in the babies immune system, certainly we know that with other viruses and bacteria that uniquitaviley happens. We don’t know for certain if it happens with COVID virus or not,” he said.

Kimberlin said it’s also still being studied whether a nursing mother with the COVID-19 antibodies could pass it on to their baby through breast milk.

Casey said becoming pregnant during the pandemic is highly personal choice.

“I know everyone is tense about the COVID-19 infection but pregnant women are not more susceptible to getting infected than a non pregnant women and they should just practice good social distancing, hand hygiene, mask wearing, and avoid crowds where they can. As they approach delivery due date, really avoid contact so they don’t have to deal with potential infection at the time they have their child,” Casey said.

For more on the CDC study involving pregnant women, click here.


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