Table of Contents
- Pregnant women are anxious and bemused thinking what sort of complication can the coronavirus creates for them, their new-born babies and what lies ahead of their children, as data and instruction keeps varying.
- Pregnant women are not at bigger risk of physical complications than other people with the illness and this condition can’t cause any problem to the baby’s growth.
- However, scientists don’t rule out the possibility of getting infected by COVID-19 for infants, and vertical transmission can be one of the reasons.
The novel coronavirus is an invincible enemy and always moving around to hunt us down. Scientists yet to decipher its characteristics. Politicians are busy making rhetoric and yet to formulate any effective policy. At least one section of the population – pregnant women – is feeling insecure and uncertain about future actions.
Living under lock-down for a great amount of time during this universal pandemic is certainly stress inducing. No to mention the anxiety pregnant women are going through right now. Just recently scientists put their focus on expectant women and their unborn babies. As they were busy dealing with other vulnerable groups of the society. One wonders, attention to pregnant women may have taken a backseat.
Every year around the globe, around 125 million women go under birth labor. Due to adjustment in the immune system, during pregnancy women are by and large vulnerable to respiratory complications. And currently COVID-19 brings more worry to women. As this virus can cause predicament to a person’s lungs and airways.
In a bid to protect babies budding inside the mother, the immune system during pregnancy goes to a shell. This half functional body’s defense mechanism makes the mother extra vulnerable to viral infections. Likewise, the dimensions of the chest cavity shrinkage during that time. Which leaves them with contracted lungs to work in due to force from the budding womb. This is the reason expectant women often find it difficult to breath normally. Particularly in the ultimate stage of their pregnancy. Hence, the effect of COVID-19 on pregnant women can be more severe.
“It seems that pregnant women infected with the virus do not have a more severe illness than the general population. However this is based on limited data. We know that the seasonal flu, and prior SARS and MERS infections were more severe in pregnant women.”
Says Cynthia DeTata, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Pregnancy can make the immune system weak. But there is no evidence that it can make women more vulnerable to COVID-19, the way it can do to aged or people with other conditions like diabetes, heart etc.
“While I think pregnant women should practice every degree of social distancing that they can because that is just smart, I don’t think pregnant women should feel a sense of panic. We’re just not seeing the data to show that the virus is attacking their immune system in the same way as someone, say, over the age of 70.”
Dr. Jane van Dis, an OB-GYN who serves as medical director at the telemedicine network Maven.
Pregnant women test positive with this virus seems to be doing well. In China, an experiment conducted on 145 suspected with covid-19 expectant women. The result that came out was inspiring as only 7% had severe cases.
However, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists did not endorse them as risk free. To them, pregnant women should be kept in the “at-risk population for COVID-19”. Because, mortality of pregnant women can rise from other breathing infections like flu.
Pregnant women will experience the following symptoms if they test positive for COVID-19: cold with fever and in some cases sore throat or dry cough. However, as studies suggest, only 3% of them will need intensive care if affected during the last trimester of the pregnancy.
The advice that WHO prescribes for pregnant women can come handy to save them from catching any infections:
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water
- Stay home as much as possible
- Maintain social distancing
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Threat of COVID-19 to Pregnant Women: What Scientific Data Reveals
At present not enough data are available to answer many queries, as the number of researches is limited till date. On the basis of partial data the WHO published that pregnant women are not at bigger risk of physical complications than other people.
The World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said,
“There is no evidence that pregnant women present with different signs or symptoms or are at higher risk of severe illness.”
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ (RCOG) also hasn’t found any concrete evidence that COVID-19 can cause any problem to baby’s growth. They also dismiss the idea of causing miscarriage.
Results of a few studies on this issue are given below. Remember subjects were got infected by COVID-19 during the later stage of pregnancy:
- A study conducted on thirty eight COVID-19 infected pregnant women revealed that none of their babies confirmed positive for this disease.
- Another study steered on nine expectant women who tested positive with COVID-19 found their babies free of this coronavirus. They searched for this virus in different organs of those babies including the throat. Besides, those women’s amniotic fluids and breast milk were also found clean.
- In two different cases, babies born to COVID19 infected mother showed that the infants’ carry higher amount of antibodies and didn’t show any clinical signs of infection with the virus.
A study conducted on thirty three COVID-19 infected pregnant women revealed that three of their infants were test positive with the virus. They were born with clinical signs of infection and later confirmed with COVID-19 positive. However, the finding of the study comes under scrutiny because of variance in antibodies after birth. Usually, antibodies of those children are likely to increase if they get infected in the womb. But, researchers found their antibodies on the lower side.
Hence, the study did not confirm as to whether this virus passed from mother to baby before or during birth, (branded as vertical transmission). However, the RCOG has not ruled out vertical transmission as a way that an infant can catch the virus. While three studies of COVID-19 infected women in china showed no proof of vertical transmission.
Transmission Through Womb
So far, scientists have not found any proof of mothers tainting their foetus with COVID-19. From the studies published to date, experts have not seen any existence of novel coronavirus in the pregnant women’s placenta or the umbilical blood. This fact is concrete enough for the scientists to come to the conclusion that the possibility of a child test positive while it remains in the womb is highly unlikely. However, this fact can change with the emergence of new data.
“As a respiratory disease, the coronavirus is different than HIV and hepatitis B, both of which carry risks of high levels of virus in the mother’s bloodstream that can pass the infection from the mother to the baby,”
an expert on obstetric infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles..
He added that a “big takeaway” from the latest information is that
“there is no evidence of direct fetal infection or birth defect due to this virus.”
Infecting through the womb can be a possibility according to a study. The study was conducted on mice and pigs. Researchers found that it is possible that infections can arise through the womb if the mother carries the pathogen. The Midwestern scientists directed the experiment and published it in the Journal of Clinical Virology.