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COVID-19 continues to generate news worldwide as it spreads, but what should pregnant women know? Are there any specific risks for pregnancies? How to manage them?
To know more, here is an exclusive interview with Dr. Zara Chan 陳駱靈岫, a gynaecologist and obstetrician in Hong Kong who recently had her third baby, and follows expectant mothers on a daily basis in these unusual times.
What are the symptoms?
People of older age and/or with existing health issues are deemed at higher risk of developing severe symptoms from the new coronavirus.
Severe infections can cause:
– Pneumonia and hospitalisation,
– Severe acute respiratory syndrome,
– Kidney failure,
You are particularly at risk if you have the above symptoms within 14 days after travelling from Mainland China or the countries with community outbreaks (such as South Korea, Iran or Italy), or have been in close contact with someone showing these symptoms after travelling from Mainland China or these other countries.
I am pregnant and have some of these symptoms. What should I do?
If you have any of the above symptoms, you should contact your OBGYN to let them know of your symptoms, travel and contact history.
As it is also currently the flu season, your symptoms can be related to the common flu, not just COVID-19. If you do have any of the minor symptoms, your doctor will be able to prescribe you with appropriate medications.
Universal precautions such as frequent hand washing, avoidance of mucosal contact with potentially contaminated hands (e.g. rubbing eyes and biting fingers) will help to reduce the chance of infection. Wearing a mask will reduce the risk of infected persons spreading to other people.
Many clinics and hospitals now have restrictions on the treatment of people with contact or travel history, so it is wise to call ahead to your clinic.
Has any pregnant woman been infected with novel coronavirus so far?
As of March 9 2020, there are 18 known cases of pregnant women infected with COVID-19. This is out of over 100,000 cases worldwide to date. There has been no deaths in babies or pregnant mothers. None of the cases involving pregnant women is in Hong Kong.
If a pregnant woman is infected, does she pass it to her baby?
No. It is not known that infected women will transmit the virus to their unborn baby. There are two reported case of a newborn infected with the novel coronavirus. But it is postulated to be an infection shortly after birth. There is until now no strong scientific evidence of in utero transmission.
If a newborn is infected, what are the risks?
There are currently two reported cases of newborns infected with COVID-19 in Mainland China. Previous experience with coronavirus infections in children shows that although they can be infected, they tend to have milder symptoms and no long term sequelae. Children with coronavirus usually present with upper respiratory tract symptoms and fever that resolve over days.
Are there any increased risks for pregnant women?
Pregnant women are more prone to infections or more serious infections than non pregnant women. Based on previous experience with respiratory viruses, pregnant women at all trimesters are at risk of more complicated pregnancy outcomes (such as miscarriage, low birth weight, and preterm delivery) and hospitalisation if they contract the disease. They are also more likely to need intensive care than their non pregnant counterparts.
What can pregnant women do to best prevent any infection risk?
It is the same as for non pregnant women.
– Avoid crowded areas.
– Wash hands frequently especially before eating, and avoid contact with eyes, nose, and mouth.
– Wearing a face mask will reduce the risk of infected persons spreading to you.
– Avoid sharing eating utensils and cups.
Is it safe to travel?
You can travel as long as you bear in mind the precautions above. However, one needs to be aware that airplanes can be an easy source of spread if an infected person is on the plane, due to the high number of people packed into a confined space. So at this time, only travel if you need to.
Are your patients very worried about coronavirus?
They are concerned but within reason.
Any advice for pregnant women?
Be cautious but no need to worry excessively. Keep clean and practice hand hygiene with regular hand washing. Be in contact with your doctor in case of any symptoms or questions.
Looking for health insurance? Need maternity coverage? Contact our partner AD MediLink now at [email protected] or +852 2606 2668 for a a quote with expert and unbiased advice. Their advisors are uniquely trained on the Hong Kong healthcare system (public and private) to answer all your questions.
Dr. Zara Chan 陳駱靈岫 is a Specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, practicing at OT&P Healthcare’s Woman and Child Clinic in Central. Dr. Chan is Canadian and completed her medical training at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong. She received her specialist qualification from the Hong Kong College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and is a member of the UK Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. She was an honorary lecturer at The Chinese University of Hong Kong and is currently the president of the Midwives and Maternal-Child Caregivers Association.