We live in uncertain times. We’re in the early stages of a global pandemic that appears to have started in China sometime in December 2019 and has, since then, traveled to more than 150 other countries. We’re told to practice social distancing, wash our hands frequently, sanitize surfaces, and telecommute to work.
It’s an anxious time, but life goes on, and that includes bringing babies into this world; babies whose mothers may have contracted the novel coronavirus and become symptomatic with COVID-19. Are the babies at risk of infection? Will the pregnancies be safe?
While little is known at this time about the effect the coronavirus has on pregnancy and the fetus, Dr. Richard Schmidt and Dr. Meera Shah of NOVA IVF, a premier fertility practice located in Mountain View, California, wants you to know the available facts. They’ve put together this guide to give you what information we have.
Coronaviruses are a family of common viruses that can infect animals and/or humans. They are responsible for illnesses varying from the common cold to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) that broke out in 2003, eventually spreading to 29 countries and infecting about 8,000 people.
In 2019, a new type of coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China. It’s unknown if the virus was originally transmitted from animals to humans or arose independently. This novel virus is now called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) is the name of the disease it causes. In March 2020, the virus was so widespread, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global pandemic.
The novel coronavirus has an unknown but probably fairly long incubation period — a person may be asymptomatic for up to 14 days, during which time they can transmit the virus to others, primarily through virus-laden droplets expelled into the air through a cough or a sneeze.
The symptoms are similar to those of seasonal influenza (the flu): body aches, fever, chills, sore throat, and fatigue, but only COVID-19 presents with extreme shortness of breath or other respiratory issues.
WHO estimates about 15% of COVID-19 cases are severe and 5% are critical, requiring a ventilator to breathe. In addition, the chances of severe or critical infections are greater with COVID-19. The most susceptible populations are the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. There is, as yet, no vaccine for the new virus
All information about the coronavirus and pregnancy is extremely preliminary, and it’s hard to draw sweeping conclusions based on only a few data points.
One of the earliest studies found that the virus does not appear to pass from an infected mother to the fetus in the womb. This comes from Dr. Wei Zhang at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. His study examined just nine pregnant women in China diagnosed with COVID-19 who gave birth, all by C-section.
His team tested amniotic fluid, cord blood, baby’s throat swab, and breast milk, and found no evidence to suggest that the virus could pass from mother to baby, either in the womb or through a C-section.
However, a report circulated sometime around March 17, 2020 that a newborn in England tested positive for COVID-19 moments after being born. No information was available, though, about what type of preventive measures were taken during the delivery or what specimens the medical teams tested. As a result, it’s not clear how the baby contracted the virus. This just shows we need more data about the disease before we can make firm assertions about its transmission from mother to child.
The one positive report came from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where researchers studied 38 pregnant women. In these women, COVID-19 did not lead to maternal deaths, and there were no confirmed cases of transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 from mothers with COVID-19 to their fetuses. They concluded that, at this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 transmission takes place in-vitro, but additional case analysis is required to determine if this remains true.
Are you pregnant and want to know more about how coronavirus can impact your pregnancy? Keep up with the CDC updates, and call NOVA IVF at 650-325-6682 to obtain more information, or send us a message online. We’re here to keep you and your baby informed and safe.