What you should know about COVID-19 and pregnancy :: WRAL.com

— Many of you know I am expecting my first child in December. I know firsthand that pregnancy can come with a lot of emotions, including a heightened sense of responsibility and desire to protect your baby.

In a world with COVID-19, protecting that baby comes with added challenges and considerations.

I wanted to find out what the risks are for pregnant women and COVID-19, and what kind of research is being done to study that.

What you should know about COVID-19 and pregnancy :: WRAL.com

I asked Brenna Hughes, vice chair for Obstetrics and Quality at Duke University and practicing OBGYN, about how coronavirus impacts pregnant women. She said pregnant women are not more likely to contract coronavirus, but they are more likely to have a bad case of it if they do.

“What we do worry about though is that pregnant women, if they get a COVID-19 infection, are more likely to have severe illness,” she said.

Pregnancy

I feel lucky that I was already vaccinated before getting pregnant. But, I had questions about breakthrough cases and how that could affect an unborn baby. Those questions are still being studied by scientists.

Hughes tells me it’s unclear based on the current science if even a mild case of COVID-19 could impact a baby in a mother’s womb.

I spoke with Crissi Rainer, who is 21 weeks pregnant and expecting triplets. She says she feels fortunate that her job is primarily work from home. Thus, she is able to minimize her exposure to other people.

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Even though Crissi is already vaccinated, she still wears her mask when she goes into places like grocery stores.

“I do feel an added sense of responsibility and kind of how I’m acting that out is continuing to be vigilant,” she told me.

Triplets are often born early, Crissi said, “and the earlier they are born, the poorer health outcomes they have.”

Hughes says women who are pregnant now are lucky to have access to the vaccine, and while some are hesitant, she encourages pregnant women to get vaccinated. New research shows that during vaccine trials, many women reported they did not experience adverse outcomes like pregnancy loss.

“The risks of getting COVID-19 and infection are quite high in pregnancy,” Hughes said. “And the risks of vaccines are very low, in general.”

Research shows that our immune systems are altered when we are pregnant. That means even the common cold or flu could be more severe than normal. Hughes says pregnant women who are vaccinated should be able to follow the guidance given to vaccinated women who are not pregnant. Yet, she says taking additional precautions like wearing a mask in crowded indoor spaces, even if vaccinated, could be a good idea.

“We’ve seen incredibly sick pregnant women during the course of this pandemic,” she told me. “And it’s quite devastating.”

Hughes says that Duke Researchers are conducting two studies on pregnant women. One seeks to determine if a mother’s vaccine transfers antibodies across the placenta.

“They are what we call neutralizing antibodies, which means that they actually suppress the virus and are more likely to protect not only the pregnant person but also the fetus” Hughes said.

Previous studies shows that antibodies are present in a mother’s breast milk. But, the amount of protection that provides to a baby is still unclear.

The other study seeks to determine how a mother’s COVID-19 infection could impact the baby.