Dr. Jason Paul Helliwell is a board-certified OB/GYN physician with Advanced Women’s Health Center in Bakersfield, CA. We asked Dr. Helliwell about the risks pregnant women face regarding COVID-19 and below he shares his thoughts on prevention.
Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful and confusing for everyone. But for expecting women, or women who plan to become pregnant soon, there are even more questions about coronavirus safety to consider:
- Is it safe to have a baby now?
- Are the precautions the same for pregnant women or are there more restrictions?
- Is the risk higher for people who are pregnant?
- Should expectant mothers get the vaccine?
Keep reading to learn everything that the experts at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say about COVID-19 prevention during pregnancy.
COVID-19 Risks for Pregnant Women
First, let’s take a look at what the risks are for pregnant women when it comes to COVID-19. Dr. Jason Paul Helliwell says that when someone becomes pregnant, they are automatically more susceptible to severe illness than the rest of the population. This is due to one of the many changes that pregnancy causes in the body.
In these cases, “serious illness” can also include COVID-19. When someone is seriously ill with COVID-19, it may mean that person is hospitalized, put into intensive care, placed on a ventilator to help them breathe, or even death. In fact, pregnancy is considered an underlying medical condition. Pregnant women who contract COVID-19 may also experience preterm birth, which means delivering the baby at 37 weeks or earlier.
This isn’t a cause to panic, however. There are many precautions to take when it comes to COVID-19 that expectant mothers can take to greatly reduce the likelihood of contracting the disease.
Preventing COVID-19 While Pregnant
The first and best thing that anyone who is pregnant can do to prevent contracting COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. As of August of this year, the experts at the Center for Disease Control have recommended the vaccine for:
- Women who are pregnant
- Women who are trying to become pregnant
- Women who may become pregnant in the future
- Women who are breastfeeding
Once vaccinated, Dr. Helliwell says pregnant women can participate in most activities that they would have before the pandemic since getting vaccinated prevents serious illness. It’s also strongly recommended to stay masked until fully vaccinated.
If not fully vaccinated, it’s important to follow protocols, including:
- Wearing a mask
- Staying at least 6 feet apart from others
- Avoiding spaces that are poorly ventilated
- Avoiding crowds
- Practicing frequent hand washing
Staying Healthy During Pregnancy
Many of the things doctors already recommend to women during pregnancy can protect against COVID-19 or other serious illnesses.
Keep Doctor Appointments
One of the most important things to do is ensure that all healthcare appointments are kept, both during and after pregnancy. If there is added concern about contracting COVID-19, appointments can also be held via telehealth to minimize risk. This means only appointments that are required to be in-person will be made.
Plan For a Safe Delivery
Even if the pregnancy is in the early stages, start to think about the delivery. Identifying a hospital early will make it possible to vet COVID-19 safety protocols and come up with a plan that follows all recommended safety procedures.
Other Pregnancy Vaccines
In addition to the COVID-19 vaccine, there are a few other vaccines that are recommended people take while pregnant, according to Dr. Jason Paul Helliwell. The first is the standard flu vaccine. It’s also recommended that if anyone lives in the same household, they also get vaccinated to prevent potential spread.
The Tdap vaccine is also recommended. This vaccine protects against whooping cough, which is known to have overlapping symptoms with COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control also states that this vaccine should be taken during each pregnancy, rather than just one time.
Take Early Symptoms Seriously
While it may be frightening to visit a hospital or medical center during this time, healthcare experts urge anyone who is pregnant to seek medical attention if necessary. Do not put off emergency care because of concerns about the pandemic. Hospitals and emergency rooms have protocols in place to protect patients from the effects of COVID-19.
Lastly, it’s recommended to seek medical care right away if urgent warning signs or symptoms are observed. These could include things like vaginal bleeding or discharge, severe nausea, chest pain, trouble breathing, severe swelling, fever, dizziness, persistent headache, or the typical symptoms of COVID-19.
Common symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Chills or fever
- Difficulty breathing
- Runny nose or congestion
- Sore throat
- Loss of taste or smell
- Body or muscle aches
As can be seen, many symptoms of COVID-19 have the potential to overlap with other common symptoms. This is why it’s so strongly recommended by the team at Advanced Women’s Health Center in Bakersfield, CA to seek medical care promptly to rule out COVID-19 or possibly diagnose another serious illness.
While being pregnant during a pandemic is certainly stressful, following these guidelines recommended by the experts at the Centers for Disease Control is the best way to stay safe and healthy. Keeping up to date on vaccines, following COVID-19 protocols, and keeping a close eye on potential symptoms are the main takeaways from the CDC’s recommendations.