COVID-19 || Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

By: Tuesday, 07 April 2020 08:00 AM Coronavirus

There is no denying that COVID-19 has brought forth scary and unprecedented times. As always, we are here to help support you along your feeding journey. Below is a list of our most frequently asked questions about COVID-19 as it relates to pregnancy and breastfeeding journeys.

Pre-Natal

I am pregnant. Am I considered “high risk"?

High risk is anyone over 60, anyone with a pre-existing condition, anyone with any type of immune suppression (which includes pregnant women). Even if you are young and healthy, pregnancy normally suppresses your immune response, which puts you at higher risk when it comes to getting sick. The normal risk factors of diabetes, obesity, and chronic respiratory disease with pregnancy puts these pregnant individuals with these other conditions at a higher risk, just as it would if you were not pregnant.

If I am pregnant and I test positive for COVID-19, will my baby get the virus?

Currently, there has been no evidence of vertical transmission during pregnancy, which means we have not seen the virus pass from mothers to unborn babies. This does not mean that your baby could not catch the virus from you after birth if you are infected. It is important to know if you are positive for the virus and take necessary precautions after the baby is born to avoid spreading it. The very few neonates whom have tested positive initially for the COVID-19 virus had no complications linked to the virus and tested negative after a week.

What do I do if I have to go out for my prenatal visits?

Obviously, every time you go out (to your physician or midwife in this case), you're exposing yourself to more people. While it's still very important for you to have prenatal care, checking in with your midwife or doctor, and doing all of the things we would normally do to stay healthy during pregnancy, the extra exposure every time you go in is a risk, so you want to be cautious. Reach out to your physician or midwife to see if there is a safe way to minimize the number of visits. For instance, if you're having an ultrasound, can you also have your pre-natal that same day so you are not having to go in more than once? If and when you do go to their office, make sure that if you are having any symptoms you let them know before you arrive so that they can prepare and decide if there is an alternative option such as a different waiting area, teleconferencing, or even drive-ups, etc. You may even want to ask your provider about having a blood pressure cuff at home to monitor yourself, and be sure you are doing your fetal kick counts to monitor your baby's movement every day. These things can make a big difference and prevent unnecessary extra trips to the office right now. Speak with your provider about your concerns and come up with a plan together that is best for you and your baby.

What happens when I present to the hospital in labor?

Please contact your hospital to go over their patient-in-labor receiving protocol. Your hospital may want pregnant patients to enter from a different lobby than usual and use different elevators. Many hospitals are only allowing one additional person in the labor and delivery room besides yourself and hospital staff and may also require that only that one person will be allowed to be in the room (no switching out of support family and friends). These additional family and friends should support you and your birth from their home through social media and web-based technology (Zoom, Webex, etc). While your support team is an important part of the birth process, they will most likely not be allowed within the hospital.

What happens if I deliver and my baby is taken away and I'm not able to see them?

The most important thing is that if you are separated from your baby, that you are still expressing your colostrum frequently, every 1-2 hours. In those first few days, babies are only eating around a teaspoon per feeding. Hand-express your colostrum the first few days so that you don't lose any. If you are unable to nurse the baby directly at your breast, frequent hand-expression or pumping is important to provide stimulation to the breast which will support your milk supply long-term. It's best to bring your own pump to the hospital so that you can be sure you will have it available as needed. Once you are able to be with your baby, frequent nursing and skin to skin contact will help you to continue your breastfeeding journey together.

How can I prepare if I know for sure that I won't be able to see my baby after birth?

If you already know or are worried that you may be separated from your baby after birth, consider antenatal colostrum expression in the final weeks of your pregnancy. Your colostrum is present weeks before your baby is actually born and can be collected into syringes, frozen and brought to the hospital in a cooler bag to be used if needed. Speak with your physician or midwife about this viable option.

Post-Natal

After I give birth, can I have visitors once I return home with my baby?

Social distancing and limiting the number of visitors is still key once you return home. In this world of technology, you can still face time and video-conference in the important people in your life to stay connected, but you will still need to protect yourself and your baby, and anyone else in your immediate home.

What about breastfeeding and breast milk?

One of the best ways to support your baby's immune system is to breastfeed, and that is always a constant. This is true to help support their bodies against getting the virus, but also to help boost their immune systems if they've already contracted it. This is true with any illness, not just Coronavirus. The Coronavirus is NOT transmitted through your milk, and that's something you can feel safe about. On the flip side of that, if you have been exposed to the Coronavirus, your body is already starting to create antibodies to help fight it, and that will be passed through your breast milk. So one thing to not compromise right now is your ability to provide your baby with your breast milk. Always wash your hands well, and if you are sick or showing symptoms, it’s best to wear a mask while breastfeeding to try and avoid transmission to the baby as much as possible. Remember, as always, any amount of breastmilk for your baby is better than none.

If I get COVID-19, can I continue to breastfeed?

Yes! You should continue to breastfeed as your baby will be receiving your antibodies through your breast milk and there is no evidence that the virus is passed through the milk. Women with COVID-19 Should:

  • Practice respiratory hygiene during feeding, wearing a mask where available.
  • Wash your hands before and after touching the baby.
  • Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces they have touched.

Is the Coronavirus passed through my breast milk?

The virus has not been found in samples of amniotic fluid or breast milk.

I work in the medical field and care for patients with COVID-19. How can I safely breastfeed my baby?

As a medical professional caring for patients, you are at higher risk for exposure and should follow the same recommendations that the WHO has for breastfeeding women with COVID-19. This includes the following

  • Practice respiratory hygiene during feeding, wearing a mask where available.
  • Wash your hands before and after touching the baby.
  • Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces they have touched.

It is very important to continue breastfeeding. Your baby will receive antibodies from you if you are exposed.

Is it best to continue feeding fresh milk to my baby right now instead of using frozen milk?

It is best to use your fresh milk first since your milk is constantly changing and adapting. Your body is making antibodies to whatever virus or bacteria you are exposed to. It is always best to try and mimic what the baby would be receiving if they were nursing at the breast. Also, anything that you do to the milk (freezing, heating) can interfere with these living components.


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