The lives of pregnant women and their babies do not seem to be at a greater threat from coronavirus than others, the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists has said.
The announcement comes as scientists try to establish the groups of people most likely to be at risk from Covid-19. There have so far been no reported deaths of pregnant women from the disease.
The risk to pregnant women is low
The college said, “Pregnant women do not appear to be more severely unwell if they develop coronavirus than the general population.
However, the experts warned that “as this is a new virus, how it may affect you is not yet clear.
“It is expected the large majority of pregnant women will experience only mild or moderate cold or flu like symptoms.”
More life-threatening symptoms of Covid-19, like pneumonia, appear to be much more common in older people, as well as those with weakened immune systems or long term illnesses.
But pregnant women are still more vulnerable to getting infections than women who are not pregnant, and underlying conditions, like asthma and diabetes, could make Covid-19 symptoms worse.
There is no evidence that Covid-19 can be passed on to your baby
The college said that there was no reason to think that coronavirus caused an increase risk of miscarriage, and that there was no evidence that the virus can be transmitted from mother to baby in the womb.
However, it did say that some pregnant women with symptoms of coronavirus in China gave birth prematurely, but added that “it is unclear whether coronavirus caused this or the doctors made the decision for the baby to be born early because the woman was unwell.”
There is no evidence that coronavirus can be passed through breast milk
New mothers who have the symptoms of Covid-19 will still be allowed to breastfeed their newborn babies, the college said.
This is because there is no evidence that the disease can be passed on through milk, and the “well-recognised benefits breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of coronavirus through breastmilk.”
The close contact between a mother and her baby during breastfeeding is the main risk for coronavirus infection, as the disease might pass from one to the other through airborne droplets.
The college advises women to talk to their maternity team about the risks and benefits of breastfeeding, and says that the following guidelines will help prevent infection:
- Wash your hands before touching your baby, breast pump or bottles- Try and avoid coughing or sneezing on your baby while feeding at the breast- Consider wearing a face mask while breastfeeding, if available- Follow recommendations for pump cleaning after each use- Consider asking someone who is well to feed expressed breast milk to your baby
Coronavirus: the facts
What is coronavirus?COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.
What caused coronavirus?The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.
How is it spread?As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But.similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.
What are the symptoms?The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.
What precautions can be taken?Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.
Government adviceAs of the 12 March the Government has moved into the "delay" phase of its plan to tackle coronavirus. Advice is that anyone with a continuous cough or high temperature should self-isolate for seven days. People over 70 have been advised not to go on cruises and schools advised to cancel trips abroad, though schools remain open.
Should I avoid public places?Most people who feel well can continue to go to work, school and public places and should only stay at home and self isolate if advised by a medical professional or the coronavirus service.
What should I do if I feel unwell?Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.
When to call NHS 111NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.
Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS