Medical professionals will need to "obtain a detailed travel history for pregnant patients presenting with fever and acute respiratory illness"

By Jen Juneau
March 02, 2020 04:58 PM
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As the coronavirus continues to spread, many pregnant women are wondering what they can do to stay as safe as possible and limit their potential for exposure.

In an advisory posted to their website, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends expectant mothers to be extra vigilant about following existing precautions as “there currently are no recommendations specific to pregnant women regarding the evaluation or management of COVID-19” due to limited data about the virus at this time.

Even so, “it is believed that pregnant women may be at higher risk of severe illness, morbidity or mortality compared with the general population,” the ACOG states. “Adverse infant outcomes (e.g., preterm birth) also have been reported among infants born to mothers positive for COVID-19 during pregnancy.”

“However, this information is based on limited data and it is not clear that these outcomes were related to maternal infection,” the ACOG clarifies. “Currently it is unclear if COVID-19 can cross through the transplacental route to the fetus.”

The group explains that as of now, “there have been a few unsubstantiated reports of infants testing positive for the virus shortly after birth, but validated data is required to understand how these infants were infected and whether or not the virus can be transmitted during pregnancy.”

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Chinese media has reported several cases of babies being diagnosed with coronavirus shortly after their birth.

The ACOG advises doctors to get a “detailed travel history” if they encounter women reporting coronavirus symptoms like fever and shortness of breath after giving birth.

And for nursing once a baby has arrived, “the primary concern is not whether the virus can be transmitted through breast milk, but rather whether an infected mother can transmit the virus through respiratory droplets during the period of breastfeeding,” the ACOG says.

“A mother with confirmed COVID-19 or who is asymptomatic PUI should take all possible precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant, including washing her hands before touching the infant,” the ACOG states. “If expressing breast milk with a manual or electric breast pump, the mother should wash her hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use. If possible, consider having someone who is well feed the expressed breast milk to the infant.”

“In limited case series reported to date, no evidence of virus has been found in the breast milk of women infected with COVID-19; however, it is not yet known if COVID-19 can be transmitted through breast milk (i.e., infectious virus in the breast milk),” the ACOG adds.

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As for prevention, the CDC says following basic hygiene practices, such as hand washing and avoiding people who are coughing or sneezing is the best course of action. In a recent study published on Feb. 11 by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the vast majority of cases they looked at (81 percent) were mild and not necessarily deadly.

Despite the low risk at this time, the CDC is currently recommending that Americans begin “to prepare for a significant disruption” to their lives if the coronavirus spreads, and to anticipate school and office closures.

Confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S.
| Credit: Martin Schwartz/PEOPLE

While the new coronavirus has quickly spread through China and 66 other countries — with South Korea, Italy and Iran being particularly hard-hit by the respiratory illness — researchers in China have found that the fatality rate is low, at 2.3 percent among confirmed cases.

The fatality rate nationwide was also skewed by the high numbers in Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, where the fatality rate was 2.9 percent, while the rest of the country was at just 0.4 percent.

As of Monday, there are a total of 88 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., 28 of which are due to community spread — meaning people with coronavirus are unknowingly exposing people in their areas to the illness. Experts believe more cases in the U.S. will be confirmed as disease testing becomes more widely available.

States with reported cases include California, Washington and Texas, as well as newly announced cases in states like Florida, New York and Rhode Island. There have been six related deaths, mostly in older adults with underlying health problems.