What Pregnant Women Need to Know About Staying Safe During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Pregnancy is challenging enough without a pandemic. If you're currently pregnant and wondering what COVID-19 means for the health of you and your baby, Benefis obstetrician Dr. Jeffery Palen has key information to share with you.

Question: Is Benefis a safe place to have a baby now?

Dr. Palen: Yes, absolutely.

Q: Will Benefis still be safe if the hospital is treating a patient with COVID-19?

Dr. Palen: Yes. We have enacted all the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We’re limiting visitors, and we have negative airflow rooms. We can isolate patients and keep everyone safe.

Q: While practicing social isolation to avoid being infected, should I be going into the doctor’s office?

Dr. Palen: Go to the appointments that are necessary. You still need your prenatal visits and visits about any problems. It wouldn’t be unwise for patients to reschedule visits that can be put off, such as annual wellness checks, just to reduce the number of people in the waiting rooms. We are screening everyone.

Q. Do pregnant women have a higher risk for contracting COVID-19?

Dr. Palen: It hasn’t been demonstrated that pregnant women are at a higher risk. The H1N1 outbreak was much more virulent with pregnant women, but we don’t see that with COVID-19. There are no indications that pregnant women need to take more precautions than anyone else, but they should still practice social distancing, frequent hand washing, and staying away from sick people. If you must interact with sick people, wear a mask.

Q. Should women nearing the end of their term induce now so they aren’t pregnant as the outbreak worsens, if it does?

Dr. Palen: Patients are frightened and asking if they should deliver early. We don’t recommend that.

Q: How will the experience of giving birth at Benefis be different than usual during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Dr. Palen: The biggest difference is that we are limiting visitors. People like to bring the whole family, but we can’t allow that. For an outpatient visit, bring only one visitor who isn’t ill. Don’t bring children, who may be virus carriers without showing symptoms. For labor and delivery, you can bring a coach and a support person. Both people must stay in the patient’s room. They can’t come and go. You can’t have guests waiting in the waiting room. We’re trying to limit exposure to patients and staff.

Q. Should I worry about breastfeeding during this outbreak?

Dr. Palen: This is a respiratory virus transmitted through droplets. It’s not transmitted through skin. Breastfeeding is not a concern. We don’t have documented transmissions from mother to baby utero or through breastfeeding. If you have symptoms or test positive, you should express milk for someone else to bottle feed to your baby.

For more information on pregnancy amid COVID-19, visit https://bit.ly/2wr9GxF.