Q&A: COVID-19 and pregnancy

COVID-19 is causing widespread worry, and if you’re getting ready to welcome a new baby, you’ll probably have questions about how the virus can affect pregnancy. We’ve addressed some of the main concerns based on advice from the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists, as well as the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Can I pass COVID-19 onto my unborn baby?

COVID-19 can be spread in two ways: from close contact with an infected person (within 2 metres) where respiratory secretions can enter the eyes, mouth, nose or airways; and by touching a surface, object or the hand of an infected person that has been contaminated with respiratory secretions and then touching one’s own mouth, nose, or eyes. We still do not know if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the virus to her foetus or baby during pregnancy or delivery. To date, the virus has not been found in samples of amniotic fluid or breastmilk.

Am I more likely to get COVID-19 during pregnancy?

Based on what we know right now, pregnant women are not more likely to contract the virus than the general population. If they do, the majority can expect mild or moderate symptoms, in the same way that the general public can. Even so, pregnant women have been classed as a high-risk group because pregnancy generally affects the immune system and the body’s ability to fight infection. As a result, viral infections can cause more severe symptoms during pregnancy.

Can COVID-19 cause pregnancy complications?

There is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 increases the likelihood of miscarriage or pregnancy loss. There have been reports of sufferers going into premature labour, but we don’t know if these instances were directly related to the virus or the result of other factors.

What precautions should I take during pregnancy?

Pregnant women should take the same precautions as everyone else – regular handwashing, social distancing, and avoiding contact with anyone who is sick.

Do women with a confirmed (or suspected) case of COVID-19 need to deliver via C-section?

No. WHO advises that caesarean sections should only be performed when medically necessary. Your birth choices should be individualised and based on your preferences, alongside recommendations from your obstetrician.

Can I still store stem cells?

Yes. CellSave’s state-of-the-art laboratory in Dubai Healthcare City is operating as normal, and our stem cell collection and storage services have not been interrupted. We will continue to maintain the strictest health and safety standards and proceed according to the latest advice from the WHO (World Health Organisation), AABB (American Association of Blood Banks) and CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention). The coronavirus situation should not affect your decision to store your baby’s stem cells. In fact, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs)  are one of the therapies being explored to tackle the virus, reinforcing their role in future medical developments.

How are stem cells being used in the fight against COVID-19?

Several clinical studies are being carried out to assess the use of umbilical cord stem cells in the treatment of the new coronavirus. MSCs are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. In cases of pneumonia (one of the most serious complications of COVID-19), they have been shown to reduce the level of inflammation, as well as the number of inflammatory cells in the lungs. In China, a 65-year-old woman is reported to have made a remarkable recovery from COVID-19 days after being injected with cord blood stem cells.

Can women with COVID-19 still breastfeed?

Yes. Women with COVID-19 can breastfeed if they wish to do so. They should practice respiratory hygiene during feeding, which means:

covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze (dispose of the used tissue immediately)

wearing a mask where available

washing hands before and after touching the baby

routinely clean and disinfect surfaces

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