Coronavirus: Expert-Recommended Guidelines For Pregnant Women And Nursing Mothers
Guidelines for lockdown: According to Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, pregnant women do not appear to be more likely to be seriously unwell than any other healthy adults if they develop the novel coronavirus.
- Pregnant women avoid interacting with people who are sick
- Expressed breast milk can be safely stored at room temperature
- Wear a mask while breastfeeding if suspected or confirmed for infection
Coronavirus outbreak: There are a lot of questions that concern pregnant women and nursing mothers amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. Dr Madhur Jain, Neonatologist and Pediatrician at SMS JkLon Hospital Jaipur, answers some common queries and shares guidelines for pregnant women during this pandemic.
How does COVID-19 affect pregnant women?
According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, pregnant women do not appear to be more susceptible to the consequences of infection with COVID-19 than the general population. It is expected that a large majority of pregnant women will experience only mild or moderate cold or flu-like symptoms. Until now, there's no evidence that pregnant women who get infected with COVID-19 are at risk of serious complications than any other healthy individuals.
As a precautionary measure, pregnant women should avoid interacting with people who are sick or who have been exposed to the virus, clean hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
According to WHO, pregnant women with symptoms of COVID-19 should be prioritised for testing. If one tests positive for the virus, one should contact their antenatal team to inform them of the diagnosis as soon as possible and ask further advice. Once she has recovered from the virus, an ultrasound scan will be arranged 14 days afterwards, to check on the health of both mother and baby.
Coronavirus: Breastfeeding guidelines
1. To reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to the newborn, the baby may be temporarily separated from the mother with COVID-19, and given expressed breast milk if the separation period gets prolonged. Once the mother's symptoms improve and they are discharged, she can continue using expressed breast milk or to breastfeed, while taking necessary precautions such as washing hands before holding the baby, wearing a face mask when in close contact with the baby such as during direct breastfeeding and disinfecting contaminated surfaces.
2. Use a dedicated breast pump and clean it properly after each use by cleaning all parts that come into contact with breast milk.
3. If you are residing in the high-risk areas and have symptoms of fever, cough or difficulty breathing, seek medical care early, and follow instructions from a medical professional.
4. If a mother is a suspected or confirmed case then she should wear a mask when feeding or expressing milk for baby. Have the baby in a cot about 1.5 metres away from mother when not feeding and have someone else help with the care of the baby.
How to store breast milk?
According to The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, if you have expressed breast milk cleanly and safely, you can store it at room temperature, in the fridge, or in the freezer, on the basis of time of usage.
1. If the newborn is in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or in special care, you may have to follow stricter recommendations for cleaning and storage.
2. Always label the bottles or bags with the amount and the date of pumping when refrigerating or freezing expressed milk, to can track and manage your stored milk.
3. Pregnant women and women who have recently delivered - including those affected by COVID-19 should attend their routine care appointments and consult with their medical professional in case of further doubts and concerns.
4. As a general advisory, expecting mothers and nursing mothers should maintain sanitation, avoid unnecessary contact with people or surfaces, practice meditation exercises, eat healthy and stay hydrated.
(Dr Madhur Jain, Doctor in Neonatology and Pediatrics at SMS JkLon Hospital Jaipur)
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