By Karen Stokes
According to a study from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, based on information known at this time, pregnant women are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant women.
Dr. Camille Garrison, Maternal and Child Health and Family Medicine specialist at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, counsels her pregnant patients about proper hand hygiene, social distancing and making sure they stay away from people with illnesses.
She makes sure all of her patients get flu shots and tetanus shots in the third trimester to protect them against whooping cough. This population of women are at a higher risk of getting infections.
“With any pregnancy you’re in an immunocompromised state,” Garrison said. “It’s easier for you to become ill when you are pregnant so outside of the time of COVID-19. We would always talk to our pregnant patients about really staying safe and trying to prevent infection because there are some viral infections that are dangerous for pregnant women, with COVID-19 we want our patients to take extra caution.”
Part of staying safe is knowing your status concerning COVID-19. Getting tested can vary depending on where you live and hospital protocols for pregnant women.
“At Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s in Milwaukee, which is where I do all my clinical work, we test all of our pregnant patients that are coming to be admitted to our labor and delivery unit,” Garrison said. “We don’t routinely test our prenatal patients unless they have symptoms. If they’ve been exposed or have a high-risk exposure, we recommend testing.”
According to the CDC, an increased risk of fetal malformations has not been documented in pregnant women who are infected with COVID-19.
Upon delivery, if a newborn comes into contact with someone who has COVID-19, they will be tested. Garrison said the hospital tests newborns within 24 hours after being born and so far, none of the babies have tested positive.
“The transmission to the baby we think is very highly unlikely. We’re happy to see that this happens to be the case with COVID-19 right now,” Garrison said.
Garrison noted that so far, studies show that COVID-19 is not transmitted through breast milk. If a mother was diagnosed with COVID-19, they can still breastfeed or pump their milk and give it to their baby.
“We just have them wear a mask when breastfeeding,” Garrison said. “We encourage our moms to breastfeed because the immunity that babies get after birth is from their mothers breast milk.”
Social distancing, hand hygiene and wearing masks are still important topics that Garrison believes doctors need to share with patients.
“I feel like I’ve been looking for an outlet to just put a plea out to everyone when it comes to COVID-19,” Garrison said. “I would just like to reiterate all of the safety things that we talked about with the pregnant patients. Everyone should be doing all of those things and I think it’s important that the more physicians that we have making these pleas to the community, the better. I just want to stress that we need everybody’s help to try to mitigate the spread of this virus. I’m from 53206, I grew up here and I just feel like people need to hear me say that.”