Coronavirus and pregnancy

Coronavirus and pregnancy

A pandemic is a difficult time for everyone, but pregnant women may be more concerned – after all, they are worried not only about themselves and their families, but also about the unborn baby. We explain what you should know about SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus to breathe easy!

Does the coronavirus affect the unborn baby?

Reports from the early days of the pandemic were optimistic – it was thought that there was no transmission of the infection to the baby through the placenta or during delivery. Now we know that, unfortunately, such a process is possible, but the positive thing is that it happens rarely. At the same time, the vast majority of newborns diagnosed with COVID-19 go through the infection asymptomatically or in a mild form. Premature babies and newborns burdened with comorbidities are at higher risk of severe disease and death.

Ongoing observations show that pregnant women with COVID-19 have a threefold increased risk of premature delivery or termination by cesarean section. At the same time, the vast majority of newborns born to mothers infected with SARS-CoV-2 are born in good condition.

Subsequent months of ongoing observations suggest that SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy does not increase the risk of spontaneous preterm delivery. In addition, limited data indicate that COVID-19 infection during pregnancy does not increase the incidence of spontaneous abortions or stillbirths. At the same time, when labor occurs during COVID-19 infection in the mother, the vast majority of newborns are born in good condition.

A very important piece of news for parents-to-be is that since the beginning of data collection on the course of COVID-19 in pregnancy, no significant increase in the incidence of birth defects has been observed.

Symptoms of coronavirus in pregnancy

The COVID-19 pandemic has been with us for more than a year, during which time many observations have already been made about SARS-CoV-2 virus infection and the course of the disease in different groups of patients. One of such groups that researchers are closely watching are pregnant women. When analyzing the results from the observations, it is worth remembering that the number of pregnant women with COVID-19 disease continues to increase, which may lead to new findings.

Observations to date have confirmed earlier reports that pregnant women are no more at risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection than the general human population. However, the available scientific evidence suggests that pregnant women with COVID-19 (symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection) are at risk for a severe course, compared to non-pregnant peers. At the same time, pregnant women are less likely to have symptoms of COVID-19 infection than the rest of the population, and most experience only mild to moderate flu-like symptoms.

The most common symptoms they experience are fever and cough. Less common are shortness of breath, muscle pain, loss of taste and smell, and diarrhea. More severe symptoms, such as pneumonia and significant hypoxia, occur rarely and are more common in more advanced pregnancy (after the 20th week of pregnancy).

It was also observed that in pregnant women with COVID-19, fever or muscle pain appeared less frequently than in women of the same age who were not pregnant. SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy also does not increase mortality, but pregnant women with COVID-19 are more likely to require mechanical ventilation and intensive care unit hospitalization.

Risk factors for death from COVID-19 during pregnancy are:

  • obesity,
  • diabetes,
  • age > 40 years.

Can pregnant women be vaccinated against COVID-19?

According to the Characteristics of Medicinal Products – all COVID-19 vaccines approved so far in Poland can be used in pregnant women if the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks to the mother and fetus. This position is based on the fact that there are only limited data on the use of this vaccine in pregnant women.

However, according to experts, it is unlikely that this vaccine poses a risk to the woman or child, as it is not a live vaccine. In addition, vaccination against COVID-19 may be particularly important for pregnant women because, they are in the risk group for severe COVID-19. This risk is further increased by comorbidities such as obesity or diabetes.

Therefore, the Polish Society of Gynecologists and Obstetricians and foreign societies, such as: WHO (World Health Organization), JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization), RCOG (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists), ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) or CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in their recommendations state that vaccination against COVID-19 should be offered to pregnant and breastfeeding patients. However, these organizations agree that there is not enough data on the safety of vaccination in pregnant women to advocate universal vaccination of pregnant women.

How can you protect yourself from contracting coronavirus during pregnancy?

In pregnant women, the standard rules of prevention will suffice:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds. If you can’t wash your hands, disinfect them with an alcohol-based preparation (with at least 60 percent alcohol content).
  • When leaving the house, cover your mouth and nose, preferably with a mask.
  • Avoid touching your face with your hands, especially your mouth, nose and eyes.
  • Stay home. You can go out for a short walk, but to places where there won’t be many people.
  • When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a bent elbow or handkerchief. After using the handkerchief, throw it in the trash and wash or disinfect your hands right away.
  • Avoid contact with sick people who have symptoms of respiratory diseases (coughing, sneezing).
  • Avoid clusters of people.
  • Avoid sharing food, drink and utensils.
  • Get vaccinated against COVID-19. Consult your doctor or midwife in charge of your pregnancy before vaccination.


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