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Pregnancy & COVID-19: Here’s the Latest you Need to Know
Pregnancy comes with a lot of unknowns, especially if you’re expecting in the middle of a pandemic. With that in mind, we reached out to Emily Oster – award-winning Brown University economist, author (Expecting Better, Cribsheet, The Family Firm), and mom of two and Tovah Haim, Founder of Bodily, for guidance on navigating pregnancy and parenting in a pandemic.
Emily takes a data-driven approach to make informed decisions based solely on facts and numbers. She then arms you with the necessary information to make the right decisions for you and your family.
Read on for her stellar advice on whether or not to get the COVID-19 vaccine, how to get ahead of postpartum isolation, and the products that will save you from unnecessary hospital visits.
Please note: The opinions and advice expressed in this article are those of the featured experts. As always, please make sure to consult your personal doctor for recommendations that are best for you.
First, the good news: Partners/supporters are allowed in the delivery room in pretty much all U.S. hospitals.
That said, they are not always allowed at your OBGYN appointments leading up to delivery, so be sure to ask before just showing up with someone in tow.
Yes, you will have to wear a mask during delivery for everyone’s safety. Also, yes, you will be fine.
And now for the less ideal news: Only 20% of U.S. hospitals are allowing doulas in the delivery room, so opt for a virtual doula if you want that kind of support.
Postpartum chemical changes in your body naturally make you feel more vulnerable and anxious, and those are even more amplified when you throw in the isolation of a pandemic. You can get ahead of this by mobilizing your support system ahead of time. Task close friends and family (i.e. people you can comfortably cry to) with meal deliveries and check in calls. It will make such a difference on the flip side.
Having these things on hand will let you avoid unnecessary postpartum trips to the pharmacy and hospital.
- Postpartum Maxi pads: After delivery (vaginal and C-section), you can expect a profuse amount of bleeding, but there is a point when it’s too much and you need to contact your doctor. A maternity maxi pad is designed to hold the appropriate amount and will help you measure what’s normal. Frida Mom’s version doubles as an ice pack to aid in healing. Trust us, you want this.
- Blood pressure cuff: Postpartum Preeclampsia is a postpartum condition that can be monitored by blood pressure. Having a cuff at home will give you peace of mind and avoid an unnecessary trip to hospital.
- Instant Formula: If you choose to breastfeed, you don’t know what kind of supply you’ll have, and there’s always a chance you’ll need to supplement. There have been formula shortages during the pandemic, and you don’t want to be driving to multiple pharmacies at 3am on the hunt, so have some at the ready.
- Clogged Ducts & Mastitis Prevention: You want to avoid these at all cost, as it’s painful and affects milk supply. Make sure you wear an appropriate nursing bra (compression can lead to clogged ducts and mastitis). Taking a Fat Emulsifier supplement will not only keep things flowing but can also increase milk supply. And if you do get a clogged duct, a lactation massager can clear it quickly and easily. And as always, make sure to consult your doctor first!
To Vaccine Or Not To Vaccine
Fact: Big vaccine trials don’t involve pregnant women. That said, there’s no reason to think the COVID-19 vaccine is risky for pregnant or nursing women. The vaccines we’re reluctant to give are the ones that contain a live form of the virus, which is not the case here. Some pregnant healthcare workers have taken the vaccine and had no adverse effects so far. Of course, the long-term impacts from the COVID-19 vaccine are unknown but unlikely; whereas, we know there are long-term effects from having the virus. And lastly, expecting women can have higher fevers with a virus like COVID or the flu, making it more serious.
The World Health Organization changed its guidance on Friday, January 22 for expecting women stating that based on what is known about the vaccine, they don’t have any “specific reason to believe there will be specific risks that would outweigh the benefits of vaccination for pregnant women.”
The Spread To Baby
There is no reason or evidence to suggest having COVID or taking the vaccine would affect breast milk. If you contract COVID and are nursing, continue to do so (but wear a mask!), as you can’t pass it to your baby that way. Does getting vaccinated pass the protection along to baby in utero or via breast milk? That we don’t know yet.
Risky Baby Business
Of course you want your new baby to meet friends and family, but the million dollar question is – when is it safe? There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but small infants and older grandparents have the highest risk, so you want to protect them both. How? It all depends on the level of risk you’re comfortable with.
- The only risk-free option is Zoom, which is obviously not ideal but better than nothing.
- A super safe bet is for everyone to quarantine for two weeks and get tested before getting together.
- If you have an infant and a toddler who is in school in person, be extra careful the first six weeks. If a baby that young gets a fever, it can be serious. But that said, if the toddler is wearing a mask and hand-washing frequently at school, the risk of transmission is very low.
- Someone who has had and recovered from COVID is highly unlikely to pass it to baby.
- If someone has been exposed, be sure they follow the guideline of quarantining for 10 days (99% effective) and add on a negative COVID test for peace of mind.
IRL vs Virtual Help
Your body goes through a lot postpartum, and postpartum doulas and lactation consultants can be immensely helpful with your recovery, baby care, and breastfeeding (for something so natural, it can be damn complicated). But is bringing people into your home safe during a pandemic? Again, only you can make that decision, but we will say both have gotten really good at supporting you virtually. Our advice is to line one up ahead of time for the first week for peace of mind.
Please note: The opinions and advice expressed in this article are those of the featured expert. As always, please make sure to consult your personal doctor for recommendations that are best for you!