Missy Tatko of Fairview has been monitoring herself and her growing belly ever since she first learned she was pregnant. It’s hard not to obsess over every little sneeze and cough during COVID-19.
“I’m not normally a stressed-out person, but this has been an interesting test,” Tatko says. “I’m just ‘on’ all the time and trying to be as prepared as possible. Now my mother is a real worrier, so she does enough of that for the both of us!” she adds. Tatko will deliver her baby — a girl — in March and so far she’s had a “normal” pregnancy.
“If you can call this period in time ‘normal,’” Tatko jokes. “I write down everything and then I call my mom and we discuss. Since this is my first baby, I wonder what this would have been like if there wasn’t a pandemic, but we’re dealing with it as best we can,” she adds.
Read on for answers to many of the questions Tatko
and others have sought answers to.
Answers to the following questions are provided by Jennifer Thompson, M.D., who practices in the
areas of gynecology, high-risk pregnancy, maternal cardiac disease in pregnancy, maternal fetal medicine, and obsetrics with Vanderbilt Health.
Are pregnant women at increased risk of getting
Pregnant women do not have an increased risk of getting COVID-19 at this point in time. However,
there does appear to be an increased risk in degree of severity among those women who do end up getting COVID-19 while they are pregnant compared to non-pregnant individuals. The majority of
pregnant women who contract COVID in general are asymptomatic or have mild cases of COVID-19.
What symptoms are seen most often in pregnant women who develop COVID-19?
Symptoms that we tend to see include fever and or chills. If you experience a temperature above 100 degrees farenheit, it’s recommended that you seek medical care to get evaluated. When we look at pregnant women, they tend to report cough as one of their first symptoms. If you do find that you have developed a new cough, it is worthwhile to reach out to your health provider. Regarding shortness of breath, women who experience difficulty breathing or having a really hard time catching their breath, or working hard to breath, that is never considered normal in pregnancy. If you ever have concerns that anything you’re experiencing isn’t normal, it’s important that you contact your health provider. Other symptoms related to COVID-19 that are hard to tease out because they are similar to pregnancy symptoms include fatigue, nausea and vomiting. Additional symptoms include headache, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, muscle aches and loss of taste. However, loss of taste has been reported less frequently among pregnant women. In discussing symptoms with your doctor, you can determine together if you should go get tested for COVID-19.
If a woman has COVID-19 early in pregnancy, will prenatal care change?
We are recommending some additional ultrasounds in the third trimester for women who have a history of COVID-19 during pregnancy, to make sure that their baby continues to grow appropriately.
If I get COVID-19, do I have increased risk of severe disease during pregnancy?
Data from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention shows that pregnant women have increased risk of hospitalization, ICU admissions, increased risk of mechanical ventilation and an increased risk of mortality in pregnant women compared to non-pregnant women. It’s important to note, however, that the severe outcomes in pregnant women who get COVID-19 are low. Those women at greatest risk of severe disease are pregnant women between the ages of 35 and 44 years old. Similarly, to the general population, black and hispanic individuals who are pregnant appear to have disproportinate rates of COVID-19 infection as well as death rates demonstrating an increased disparity. Additionally, pregnant women with obesity or gestational diabetes may be at an even higher risk of severe disease consistent with what we see in the general population.
What are the risks of COVID-19 to a baby?
The good news is that there’s very limited data on in-utero transmission of COVID-19 to the fetus. There’s only been two well-documented cases of the potential of in utero transmission or what we call congenital infection, suggesting that the risk of babies being infected in utero is unlikely. There have been cases reported of babies testing positive for COVID-19, but these most often occur in women who were infected within seven to 14 days prior to delivery.
How do I handle all of the stress and anxiety that comes with being pregnant during the pandemic?
There is increased risk for anxiety and depression amony pregnant women. Meditation and yoga can help. There are wellness apps that are available to help reduce stress. Additionally, for people who are concerned about going out, a lot of support providers are offering telehealth appointments. At Vanderbilt, we very much understand that this is a stressful time and that the need for additonal behavioral health and emotional support is really important.
Aside from masking, washing my hands AND social distancing what are some other measures to reduce the chance of getting COVID-19 while pregnant?
Attend your prenatal appointments, including telehealth visits; get your seasonal influenza vaccine to help reduce your risk of getting COVID-19. We know that the flu and COVID-19 are two separate viruses, and there are cases of people getting both. So if we can reduce the risk of getting one of those, that will help insure your health and that of your baby.
The data seems to change from week to week. What can you tell me about that?
The majority of our data so far in this pandemic comes from third-trimester pregnancies. We continue to gather information about what happens to women who develop infection in the first and second trimesters and then recover and the pregnancy continues.