Doctor looks at pregnancy and coronavirus

Published 3:12 pm Monday, April 6, 2020

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While pregnant women are at a similar risk as anyone else of contracting Covid-19, the disease that causes coronavirus, they potentially could be at a higher risk of complications due to the virus, according to Dr. Lorene Temming, an OB/GYN and medical director of labor and delivery at Atrium Health in Charlotte.

Temming said there is still not enough available information and data. They could be at a higher risk of complications due to past experiences with similar viruses in the same family such as the flu, SARS and MERS.

She was one of a number of Atrium medical professionals who were recently filmed addressing certain topics related to the virus. The videos were then shared with local media outlets.

As of Monday, there have been 2,870 confirmed cases, 33 deaths in the state and 270 people hospitalized, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. Stanly County currently has eight positive cases.

The changes women experience with their bodies during pregnancy, including how they fight off infections and how their breathing works, can make them more susceptible to complications with the virus and potentially more susceptible to respiratory illnesses like pneumonia.

“For pregnant women, just like for everyone else in our community, it’s really important to do everything we can to prevent the spread of coronavirus so the No. 1 thing I say about that is hand washing, hand washing, hand washing,” Temming said, adding that social distancing is also crucial.

To help reduce the risk of contracting the virus, pregnant women are encouraged to stay home as much as possible and limit their interactions with anyone outside their immediate family, she said.

There is no evidence that the virus is associated with either early miscarriage or early birth defects, but it is still early to know for sure, Temming said. As a woman’s pregnancy progresses, the potential for her to get sicker from coronavirus increases.

Women should not automatically panic if they happen to contract the virus during pregnancy.

“They should overall be reassured that for most pregnant women, coronavirus will be like a cold, the same way as for everyone else,” Temming said, though they should make sure to stay hydrated and take good care of themselves.

In most cases, where the virus is relatively mild, they should stay at home, take Tylenol for a fever and manage their symptoms but if they progress to developing more serious symptoms, such as shortness of  breathing or feeling dehydrated, then it likely would make sense for them to come to the hospital for more treatment, Temming said.

Temming said there has been no known case of the coronavirus passing from the mother to the unborn child, but there is a worry about babies potentially catching the virus from their mothers, due to their less robust immune systems.

Even if pregnant women who have tested positive have other children in the household, Temming advises them to stay at home and isolate.

“We think that within the family unit, it’s very likely that we’re all exposed to each other when we live together,” she said.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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