The flood of new information since the COVID-19 pandemic began has expecting mothers wondering which expert recommendations they can trust.
As a nurse at University Hospital, Kathryn Hicks not only had to advise her patients about the new recommendations but also follow them closely herself when she learned she was pregnant.
“It’s unfortunate for everyone, not just pregnant people,” Hicks says. “I think everyone at my doctor’s office has done a really great job of sharing the information they know and then being transparent about the information they don’t know.”
But the back-and-forth advice has left many expecting mothers confused, but those in health care are trying to fix that.
“Certainly we don’t have all the data we would like to have about how (COVID-19) can affect the fetus long-term,” says Dr. Taylor Nelson, an infectious disease expert with MU Health Care.
In the meantime, she says, those who are expecting should follow the general recommendations like social distancing, washing your hands and wearing a mask.
So what should you believe? MU Health Care OB-GYN Dr. Melissa Terry has spent the past eight months studying and learning about new recommendations. She is busting the myths and sharing the realities about pregnancy and COVID-19.
Myth: Pregnant women are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19.
Reality: “We do not think that women are at any increased risk of contracting the virus,” Terry says. “But there are many complications that can go along with pregnancy, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, that can cause a pregnant woman to have a more severe case. So, we have to tell our pregnant patients to take all the recommended precautions.”
Although Terry has not seen any indication of an increased risk, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there might be.
Health care workers and the CDC do agree expecting mothers should take precautions to avoid contracting the virus in order to prevent complications a virus can cause during a pregnancy.
“There are many complications that can go along with pregnancy, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, that can cause a pregnant woman to have a more severe case, so we have to tell our pregnant patients to take all the recommended precautions.”
Myth: Mothers can pass the virus to their fetus in the uterus.
Reality: “At this point, we do not think that it is possible for mom to give an unborn baby the coronavirus,” Terry says.
A June 2020 study found that vertical transmission, or the spread of the virus to the unborn child, is unlikely.
Myth: Doctor’s offices and hospitals are unsafe.
Reality: “That is 100% not true,” Terry says. “We do not want pregnant women interrupting their prenatal care so they can avoid being exposed to people who may have the virus … I would say that health care facilities, including hospitals, are probably some of the safest places that individuals can go during this pandemic.”
Myth: Mothers who test positive must be separated from their baby after delivery.
Reality: “[The CDC] says that the mom and baby can consider separation, but we no longer recommend it,” Terry says. “That time immediately after delivery, as well as the first few days after delivery, is so important for the bonding process between the parents and the baby.”
Myth: The virus spreads to the baby through your breast milk.
Reality: Terry says the virus has not been found in any breast milk.
Although some myths can be debunked, there is still more to learn.
Experts are trying to determine how COVID-19 is affecting women of color compared to white women. They are still in the early stages of research. According to the CDC, black women are nearly three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than white women. The organization says three out of five of these deaths are preventable.
“In my opinion, there is not enough data to show a clear difference in outcomes,” Terry says. “There are a few small reports out of densely populated cities that hint at an increased hospitalization rate and ICU admission rate in African American and Hispanic pregnant women. I hesitate to draw a broad conclusion based on these reports, though.”
With the overwhelming amount of information out there and more becoming available each day, it’s important to stay informed as COVID-19 changes.