The novel coronavirus (CoV), a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans, aka COVID-19, has taken the world by storm since December 2019.
According to WHO (World Health Organization), Coronaviruses belong to a large family of viruses found in both animals and humans.
Those infected are known to show signs that range from a common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Symdrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
COVID-19 has become an endemic in Wuhan (Hubei Province of China), claiming more than 1,400 lives and affecting close to 65,000 individuals in the world till date (14 Feb 2020).
Much light has been shed on the COVID-19, with current estimates of the virus’ incubation period being up to 14 days.
Its infectious nature also means that there may be a possibility that people infected with COVID-19 may be infectious before showing significant symptoms, thereby being the cause of the majority of the virus spread.
But how will the COVID-19 affect pregnant women?
And what are some of the measures a pregnant woman should take during this endemic?
We ask 2 Singapore gynecologists for their input during this stressful period.
How does COVID-19 affect Pregnant Women?
“While it is good to take precaution, there is no need to get overly paranoid over it. The risk of infection remains low from casual contact,” says Dr Watt Wing Fong, a Singapore gynecologist from The Obstetrics & Gynaecology Centre.
“If a pregnant woman shows symptoms, she should consult a doctor. More often than not, the symptoms are caused by other viral infections such as common cold virus or even influenza, which is more common than the coronavirus,” she added.
The fear of pregnancy being affected if one gets the virus has become one of the biggest concerns amongst pregnant mothers.
“As this is a new virus, we do not have sufficient data about the direct impact of the virus on the pregnancy. However, if a woman develops a fever or severe pneumonia, there can be an increased risk of premature labour or growth restriction,” cautioned Dr Watt.
“So far, there is insufficient data to suggest a direct transmission of the virus from mother to an unborn child (vertical transmission),” added the gynecologist.
In order to lower your risks of contracting the COVID-19 virus, Dr Watt advises to “avoid crowded places. Ensure personal hygiene with frequent hand washing. Stay away from people who may be unwell and to consider wearing a surgical mask if going to crowded places.”
“Adopt a healthy lifestyle, improve your immunity with adequate sleep and most importantly, do not get too paranoid,” the Singapore gynecologist urged.
Doctor’s advice on COVID-19’s effect on Pregnant Women
We headed to Women Fertility & Fetal Centre to ask Dr Ann Tan on her advice regarding the COVID-19’s effects on pregnant women.
“As it is a novel virus, there are many unknowns amongst the known. The simple answer is to be healthy and fit prior to pregnancy since that is always the best way to start off any pregnancy.”
“To ensure good nutrition, hygiene and adequate rest during early pregnancy is the next day-to-day need in every pregnancy. Be sensible and reduce excessive physical stress and exercise. It is crucial to try to not fall sick,” Dr Ann Tan advises.
“All infections, particularly in the first trimester, can potentially have adverse effects on the pregnancy. Some are known to cause congenital abnormalities eg. Rubella.”
“However, many more have no known direct cause and effect, but one should be very careful not to fall ill in the first trimester in particular, as the fetal organs are forming and any significant adverse event could possibly cause something to go wrong,” added the Singapore gynaecologist.
When asked if pregnant mothers should be worried about the COVID-19, Dr Ann Tan states that “at this current time, there is very little data, but from the reports on the babies who are just delivered, they seem to be well. And should a pregnant woman show symptoms of the coronavirus, report to the relevant centres to test if she has the COVID-19. ”
While COVID-19 situation has yet to stabilize, there is however, no cause for paranoia and unnecessary panic for pregnant mothers.
It is crucial, however, to take the necessary precaution, to keep the virus at arm’s length. By practising a set of good hygiene regimen during this period and abstaining from crowded areas which increases exposure to the virus, this significantly reduces the risks of contracting the COVID-19 virus.
Keep to a healthy routine with adequate sleep and exercise with plenty of water to keep the immune system high.
It might be wise to follow the advice issued by Singapore’s gynaecologists and together, we can keep the COVID-19 virus at bay.