Expecting mothers considered high risk for COVID-19, here’s what you need to know

Pregnant women at-risk for coronavirus

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services say expecting mothers are at a higher risk of complications if they contract COVID-19.

Medical Director of Labor and Delivery and OB/GYN for Atrium Health Dr. Lorene Temming says pregnant women should practice the same precautions as other people who fall into the high-risk category, which include those who are 65 years or older, immune-deficient or have an underlying health issue.

“Pregnant women and even those who are otherwise healthy should think of themselves as being a little bit higher risk from this disease,” Dr. Temming said. “That means to me that they should be doing a ton of handwashing, really we all should, and they should be doing the social distancing, staying home or just with their family and staying away from people who are sick.”

Dr. Temming says there is not much literature on how COVID-19 affects pregnant women, but health experts know that other viruses like the flu can cause complications in expecting mothers, therefore physicians believe COVID-19 could do the same.

“Pregnant women, in general, are at higher risk for complications from illness because of changes in their immune system and their physiology and the way their bodies work during pregnancy,” Dr. Temming said.

Dr. Temming says so far there is no evidence that shows the virus can cross the placenta and impact the unborn child. However, if a mother tests positive for COVID-19, there is a risk to a newborn baby due to the close contact with the mother.

She says it is OK if an expecting mother goes outside for a walk as long as she is staying away from people who are sick. Dr. Temming says deliveries are going on as scheduled with little disruption due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Pregnant women who are delivering soon may have to make changes to who is in the room during the birth. Most hospital systems are enacting visitor restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Some hospital systems in other parts of the country have made the tough decision to not allow any visitors, even on the labor and delivery unit, to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“The reason that they made that move in New York is because they had a lot of asymptomatic early infected pregnant women go through and become sympotomatic later on during their labor course. So really trying to limit the amount of people on that unit. I’m hopeful that if we can slow the community spread in our area we wont have to get to that point,” Dr. Lorene Temming said.

Temming says expectant mothers who are not COVID-19 positive will likely not notice much change to their care plans. Atrium Health is handling more check-up appointments by phone and virtual visits. Healthcare workers already wear gowns, masks, and gloves on the labor and delivery floor.

If an expectant mother is COVID-19 positive, Temming says more precautions will be taken to prevent the spread of the virus to the child and others. Temmings says more specialized personal protective equipment will be worn by healthcare workers during delivery with a mother who has a confirmed case of the virus.

Because there is concern that an infected mother could pass the virus to the child after birth, right now, Atrium Health is temporarily separating moms from their newborns, if the mother is COVID-19 positive.

“Then we encourage mom to breast feed by pumping and then a family member or a caregiver can give that milk to the baby,” Dr. Temming said.

She adds that guidance on how to handle expectant mothers who are COVID-19 positive is frequently changing, but as of now, that is how physicians at Atrium Health will be handling births from mothers who test positive for the virus.

First-time mom Nikki Edwards planned to have the baby’s father and two grandmothers in the delivery room with her, but she’s expecting to make changes since her baby is due in just over two weeks.

“I think we are planning on just having him and I there now anyway,” Edwards said.

As of Friday, visitor restrictions at area hospitals for patients having a baby are as follows:

Atrium Health:

Two patient visitors will be allowed for:

• Minor patients less than 18 years (2 parents/guardians)

• Patients having a baby (1 visitor and 1 birthing coach)

Patient visitors must also be 13 years or older and in good health (without fever or respiratory illness symptoms including cough or shortness of breath). The care team will work with families who have special circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

Novant Health

To protect the health and safety of patients and team members, Novant Health is further limiting visitation in all acute care facilities in North Carolina. As of Tuesday, March 17, at 8 a.m., patients will be allowed a maximum of two visitors at any given time.

  • Visitors must be immediate family members or designated caregivers and not exceed two per patient at a time.
  • Visitors must be 13 or older unless needing medical care.
  • Visitors must be healthy (no cough, fever or flu-like symptoms).

CaroMont Health:

§ Obstetric patients going to the hospital may have one partner and one birth support person accompany them.

§ Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) patients may have one birth parent plus one significant other who must remain in the room for the duration of the visit.

§ Visitors will be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 and must check in using photo identification.

Piedmont Medical Center:

We are no longer accepting visitors in our hospital. Alternative means of communications between families and patients, such as virtual visitations via Skype, FaceTime, etc., should be facilitated. We understand there are situations that may require an exception to this no visitor policy. Our patients have been encouraged to discuss their needs with their care team.

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