Pregnant women and new mothers are unlikely to transmit coronavirus to their babies, a Turkish doctor has said.
The ongoing pandemic has fueled anxiety amid a public health crisis and economic turmoil. Moreover, 116 million babies are expected to be born world over under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent UN report.
In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Emine Zeynep Yilmaz, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Medipol University Hospital, answered some commonly asked questions.
She said recent data suggests pregnancy and childbirth do not increase the risk for contracting the virus and most infected mothers recover before delivery.
"Many known or suspected COVID-19 pregnancies have mild symptoms and do not require hospital care," she said.
Like other patients, pregnant women should also self-quarantine.
"Except pregnant women in the last trimester should count fetal kicks and call her doctor about decreased fetal movement," she said.
Higher chances of preterm birth, cesarean
She went on to say the chances of preterm birth and cesarean delivery are higher in mothers who contract the virus due to fever and hypoxemia.
"Over 95% of newborns have been in good condition at birth. Also, chances of miscarriage do not increase based on recent data."
The doctor said the virus level in the blood of patients with COVID-19 is low, so transmission from the placenta to the baby is uncommon.
She went on to say most women contract the virus in the nasopharynx, or the upper throat.
The vaginal and amniotic fluid specimens of these women were mostly negative.
"A few possible cases of congenital infection based on newborn laboratory with/without clinical findings have been reported but results are not definitive evidence of in utero infection and, in many of these cases, the early baby infection may have been due to contact with infected parents or caregivers after birth. So the significance of transmission from mother to baby while she is pregnant remains low but unclear with the recent data," she added.
She said it was unclear if breastfeeding mothers could transmit the virus to babies.
"Although some reports concluded all samples of breast milk from mothers with COVID-19 tested negative, some investigators reported identifying samples of breast milk positive for the virus," she said.
She stressed more data is needed to assess the risk of viral transmission from breast milk.
Despite all positive data and reports, Yilmaz said babies from mothers who tested positive for COVID-19 are considered potential suspects and kept isolated.
Among the COVID-19 symptoms in babies are fever and difficulty in feeding.
"Respiratory symptoms may be minimal; when present, respiratory symptoms are similar to those caused by other coronaviruses and influenza, although the cough may be less prominent," she added.
In order to protect babies from infected mothers, they are separated at the time of birth. But this, she said, could stress both the mother and baby.
Other precautions could include maintaining good hand hygiene and wearing masks.
Similar precautions should be followed throughout the pregnancy.
The coronavirus pandemic has claimed over 726,780 lives in 188 countries and regions since it originated in China last December. The US, Brazil, India, and Russia are currently the worst-hit countries in the world.
Over 19.6 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide, with recoveries exceeding 11.8 million, according to figures compiled by the US' Johns Hopkins University.
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