Pregnant women had mountains of concern at the beginning of the pandemic, and doctors didn’t have many answers. Now, months after COVID-19 began sweeping across the globe, new studies and CDC reports are out.
While there is still much that is unknown, the picture is beginning to be more clear.
Dr. Denise Jamieson, chair of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory Healthcare and member of the COVID-19 task force at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, tells NPR’s Sacha Pfeiffer that the recent findings “should be somewhat reassuring” to pregnant women and their families.
“However, I still think there are many reasons to be vigilant about COVID-19,” she says. “It’s still really important that pregnant women take measures to protect themselves, and it’s also really important that pregnant women have access to COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they’re available.”
Here are excerpts from her interview on All Things Considered, in which Jamieson discusses how COVID-19 can affect pregnancies and newborns, including the isolation that comes from quarantining as a new parent.
There was a fear that if a pregnant woman was COVID-positive, she might pass that along to her baby, either in utero or during childbirth. Do we know if that happens?
[The virus that causes COVID-19] seems to be able to cross the placenta and infect fetuses during pregnancy. However, the good news is that this doesn’t seem to happen very often, and there isn’t evidence that when this happens there is an association with birth defects the way we found with viruses like Zika.
And those babies are generally OK, despite being infected?
For the most part, the babies, yes, have done well.
There were some women wondering if they should avoid getting pregnant during the pandemic. Would you advise that? To wait until it’s over to try and have a baby?
I would not recommend to delay in pregnancy. I think women can take measures to avoid COVID during pregnancy and to protect themselves during pregnancy and when to get pregnant is such a personal and complicated decision, and this pandemic will probably be with us for a while. I would not advise delaying pregnancy solely on the basis of the COVID pandemic.
Have you found that the experience of being pregnant or having a baby during the pandemic has compromised or reduced the joy of pregnancy and delivery for any women?
I hope it hasn’t substantially reduced the joy of having a baby, but I do worry that with restrictions on visitation in the hospital, and then also the social isolation after women go home from the hospital, I do think it’s fundamentally changed the experience of having a baby. … I look forward to a day when the pandemic is over, and we have a safe, available and effective vaccine, and we don’t have to social distance.
Lauren Hodges, Art Silverman and Patrick Jarenwattananon produced and edited the audio version of this story.