Having a baby is a very sacred moment in a parent’s life. A few months ago a positive test brought you immense joy, but now a different positive test carries with it a lingering uncertainty.
However, you are not alone, millions of pregnant women the world over are in the same position as you.
First let’s try to unpack the changes to a woman’s physiology during pregnancy, particularly those involving the immune system.
Changes in body during pregnancy:
During pregnancy the mother’s body goes through a plethora of physiological changes that result in a relative immune suppression. Immune suppression is necessary to accommodate the growth of the foetus. Since the foetus’s s genetic material is different than the mothers, there is potential that the child in the womb maybe recognised as foreign entity and therefore, perceived as a threat by the mothers immune system.
In order to avoid this from occurring, the body adapts by suppressing our immunities during pregnancy. This is completely normal.
COVID in the pregnant body:
Although research indicates that pregnant women are no more likely than any other group to be infected by COVID, the symptoms can manifest more severely in pregnant women, due to the changes that occur in pregnancy
These results are further compounded when they occur in women with co-morbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease etc.
This is not to say that you are bound to be severely affected by COVID, just that you are more likely to be symptomatic, during pregnancy.
Effect on foetus
COVID does not appear to damage the placenta or affect the foetus.
There has been no evidence of teratogenicity or foetal developmental disturbances reported with covid infection of mother.
Reports have shown that the Covid-19 tests performed on breast milk and maternal vaginal secretion are negative, even when serology tests are positive for COVID.
Recent studies done on pregnant women with covid suggests that the mother can give her baby passive immunity through two types of antibodies- immunoglobulin G and immunoglobulin M. These protective immune factors move from mother to child through the umbilical cord and via breast milk.
Measures to be taken when COVID positive and expecting:
Minimise doctor visits, increase intervals between visits and keep them short. You can switch to other methods of consultation like teleconferencing with your doctors.
This may seem obvious, but avoid contact with outsiders and even family members if you are covid positive. This rule is true for when you are pregnant and after you’ve given birth.
It may be tempting to allow visitors and relatives to come look at your baby once they are born, but this poses a lot of strain on the immune systems of you and your child.
There are no special dietary requirements when you have covid during a pregnancy.
Follow a normal pregnancy diet with a high protein intake, and vitamin and micronutrient supplementation as usual. You can speak to your doctor for further clarity and recommendations on diet during pregnancy.
Don’t touch your eyes, nose mouth or face excessively and take frequent baths. Cough or sneeze into an elbow or tissue.
Once you’ve given birth, wash your hands frequently before and after you touch your baby and make others do the same.
Mental health upkeep:
Mental health is not talked about enough in our society. During pregnancy, especially in light of the pandemic, many women make experience struggles with mental health. Social isolation and uncertainty about the course of this disease can exacerbate anxiety and depression.
In these situations, please remember you are not alone and try to reach out to others or seek help from professionals. They can help you get through these turbulent times and manage your pregnancy and stress better.
Seek help through teleconferencing services since in-person appointments can pose an unnecessary risk to you.
In general during pregnancy and postpartum it is recommended to have at least 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise.
However, if you have active symptomatic disease, take rest and don’t exert your body.
Physical exertion during respiratory illness can worsen the symptoms and slow down recovery.
Talk to your doctor to understand what options are best for you and your baby.
Even under normal circumstances pregnancy is not an easy phase, coupled with covid this experience may seem fraught with danger. Nevertheless with good medical care, adequate precautions, rigorous hygiene and taking care of your mental health this too can be managed.