Pregnant women have suppressed immune systems, and that could make them more susceptible to COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says women who are pregnant should be monitored since they are known to be at risk with severe viral illness.
"Pregnant women should now be considered within the high-risk category, and should follow the recommendations that are being made for older adults, people with other comorbidities and health issues," says Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases expert. She says recommendations for the general public also should be followed by pregnant women, including social or physical distancing, excellent hand-washing, and avoiding contact with anyone who might be sick.
"This is the safest thing for them to do until we have better understanding of what their risks are and whether there are any unique precautions they need to take," Dr. Rajapakse adds.
Risks during pregnancy
Currently, it isn't clear if pregnant women have a greater chance of getting sick from COVID-19 or if they are more likely to experience serious illness. However, pregnant women are at greater risk of severe illness from other respiratory infections, such as the flu.
It also isn't known if COVID-19 causes problems during pregnancy or affects the health of the baby after birth. There have been a small number of reported problems, such as premature birth, in babies born to mothers who tested positive for COVID-19 during pregnancy. But these problems might not be related to the mother's infection.
In a small study of infants born to mothers infected with COVID-19, none of the infants tested positive for COVID-19 and the virus wasn't found in the amniotic fluid or placenta.
Dr. Rajapakse says there has been some reassuring news based on early data. "Pregnant women who have been infected close to the time of term delivery, the outcomes for the babies have been good, generally speaking, and when they have beentested, certain fluids like amniotic fluid, cord blood, throat swabs from the babies and breast milk, signs of the virus haven't been found."
However, a report of 33 infants born to mothers with COVID-19 pneumonia showed that three newborns tested positive for the virus two days after birth, despite precautions taken to prevent infection.