NAYA| Pregnant during the COVID-19 outbreak? Here’s what you need to know

For many people, the uncertainty surrounding the virus is the hardest thing to handle. This can be even more overwhelming if you are an expectant mom.
by Vanessa Ghanem

2 April 2020 | 12:55

Source: by Annahar

  • by Vanessa Ghanem
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 2 April 2020 | 12:55

A pregnant woman walks past a street mural in Hong Kong on March 23, 2020. With the coronavirus pandemic moving quickly, pregnant women are facing a changing health care system. (Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images)

BEIRUT: As the novel coronavirus continues to spread, fears and anxieties can take an emotional toll. The world is in the middle of a global pandemic, with cities and entire countries shutting down. For many people, the uncertainty surrounding the virus is the hardest thing to handle. This can be even more overwhelming if you are an expectant mom.

Last week, Jennifer Rahmeh-Francis found out that she was pregnant in the middle of the national public mobilization. She revealed to Annahar’s NAYA what it felt like to expect a first child during the worst public-health crisis the world has seen in a century.

“I have mixed feelings,” Rahmeh-Francis said. “For more than six months, my husband and I have planned for this momentous occasion in our lives. When it happened, I felt happiness in me before it quickly turned into perinatal anxiety having realized that I should brace for what may come.”

Rahmeh-Francis, 26, is six weeks pregnant now on lockdown, hoping that the baby growing in her womb will survive the crisis.

“Not to know what to expect when you’re expecting during a worldwide pandemic can be very stressful,” she said.

Can COVID-19 be passed to the fetus?

According to Gaël Abou Ghannam, MD, obstetrician-gynecologist (OB/GYN) and infertility specialist, there is no enough evidence that the virus can be passed on in utero.

“Although related data is limited, mothers should mostly worry about themselves from the coronavirus, not the fetus,” Abou Ghannam told NAYA.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests that pregnant women are not at higher risk of getting the virus.

In this context, Abou Ghannam confirmed that expecting mothers did not seem especially susceptible to the illness compared with the rest of the public.

“But if they catch it,” she said, “they are more likely to develop severe symptoms than other healthy individuals their age.”

According to Abou Ghannam, pregnancy weakens a woman’s immune system during the whole period of pregnancy, and her lung capacity decreases notably during the third trimester. 

“Also, since pregnant women are at greater risk of severe morbidity and mortality from other respiratory diseases like the flu and SARS, they should be considered as at-risk-individuals for COVID-19.”

If an expectant mom thinks she might have coronavirus, she should call her doctor, Abou Ghannam recommended.

How can pregnant women protect against catching COVID-19?

“Just like anyone else, pregnant women should take social distancing seriously, practice excellent hygiene, and avoid contact with anyone who seems sick,” Abou Ghannam stressed.

Further, Abou Ghannam pointed out that doctor visits should be limited during this period.

“Some prenatal visits can be conducted virtually and patients can contact their OB/GYN through the phone. This doesn’t mean, however, that key visits should be missed,” she elaborated. “Proper pregnancy care is as important as protecting oneself from catching coronavirus. Blood tests and fetal ultrasound should be performed, so we don’t take other risks.”

Worldwide, hospitals and clinics are also restricting who can be in delivery rooms. Some of them advised they would allow only one support person into the delivery room, while others are allowing the presence of medical staffers only.

Commenting on this, Abou Ghannam pointed out that such a measure can be traumatizing for the mother and frustrating for the father and family; they must be taken, however.

“It is part of social distancing,” she explained. “The fewer people we have in the delivery room, the safer everyone will be.”

How can pregnant women avoid putting stress on themselves and the baby?

“I’m supposed to be passing through a joyful phase right now, yet I am anxious. I wasn’t prepared for navigating the joys and uncertainties of pregnancy under lockdown,” Rahmeh-Francis told NAYA. “I am usually a planner. I love to plan things ahead of time. For instance, I keep on thinking whether I will be able to buy clothes and gear for the baby or not.”

Rahmeh-Francis feels less in control, more worried, particularly when new data emerges about cases and deaths. Consequently, she tries not to check the news obsessively.

“I stay informed about what’s happening in my community and around the world, but I step away from media once I start feeling overwhelmed. Instead, I read pregnancy and parenting books, cook, and plan for what I can. That’s how I’m coping,” she noted.

For her part, Abou Ghannam advised mothers-to-be to prevent stress buildup.

“Stress is not good for you. It’s not good for your baby either. Focus on happy things even under these circumstances. After all, it’s a few-in-a-lifetime experience. Try to make the best out of it,” she stressed. 

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Welcome to “NAYA," the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. NAYA is devoted to women of all generations-NAYA Editor, Sally Farhat: Sally.farhat@annahar.com.lb

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