Being pregnant during a global pandemic is very scary and it’s understandable that moms-to-be are feeling anxious about their and their baby’s health.
Our resident gynae, Dr Kim Sonntag answers some common questions about expecting during the COVID-19 pandemic she frequently gets from her patients.
Does COVID-19 cause birth defects?
It has not been shown that there is any increase in birth defects associated with COVID-19. However, a COVID infection in pregnancy can increase the risk – but this depends on what stage of your pregnancy you’re at.
In the first trimester there has been an increase in miscarriage rates and later in pregnancy, if there is respiratory compromise with high fever, there is an increase in the incidence of preterm labour.
Can my husband/partner attend doctor’s visits with me?
It depends on the rules your doctor or facility has, but I have allowed one person to accompany all patients for their antenatal check-ups.
Will all my prenatal appointments be in-person or will some be telephonically?
It is quite important to have an in-person visit as your blood pressure needs to be checked and often an ultrasound is done as well.
Should I do anything different to protect myself from COVID-19 now that I’m pregnant? Is hand sanitiser safe to use?
Hand sanitiser is completely safe in pregnancy as the alcohol is not absorbed through the skin. Vitamin C can also be added as an immune booster. A generally healthy diet and lifestyle and hand hygiene will also decrease the risk of transmission. The same guidelines are advised for pregnant women; wearing of masks, social distancing and avoiding contact with family and friends that are unwell.
What birthing and antenatal classes are available right now? Is everything still done online?
Depending on the provider of these classes, they are either online or in person.
Should I consider a home birth or delivery at a birthing centre instead of at the hospital?
The rates of COVID positive patients in most hospitals is quite low now and I would not recommend a home birth for that reason alone.
If I have COVID and I have my baby soon afterwards, will my baby be separated from me?
No, your baby will be monitored for signs of COVID and perhaps tested, but will not be taken away from you.
Can I breastfeed if I have COVID or have had COVID in my pregnancy?
Yes, there are no restrictions on breastfeeding, regardless of your COVID status.
If I get COVID-19 when I am pregnant, will my baby get it too?
It is extremely unlikely even in the end of pregnancy and we have not seen any cases of in-utero transmission.
I need a papsmear, should I be going to my gynae for one?
Given the decrease in infection rates, we advise normal screening to go ahead, which involves papsmears, mammograms etc. Postponing these could lead to a delay in diagnosing conditions such as cervical cancer and breast cancer.
More about the expert:
Dr Kim Sonntag is an obstetrician gynaecologist Based at Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont, Cape Town. She is passionate about vaginal births and has a special interest in high risk pregnancies. Other areas of interest include teenage gynaecological disorders, vaginal birth after Caesarean section and twin pregnancies. With her website and social media platforms, she aims to try and educate women about screening, importance of gynaecological health and vital information regarding pregnancies.
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