The data on pregnancy and the novel coronavirus is severely limited, but according to the American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, COVID-19 may pose a similar, elevated risk to pregnant women as the flu.
Symptoms and calling your doctor
The symptoms of the coronavirus (COVID-19) are similar to colds and other common respiratory illness. They include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
According to the CDC, symptoms can appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, you should be in contact with your doctor (even if you think there's no way it's COVID-19). And be sure to call your provider should you have any other worrying symptoms or medical concerns.
As the coronavirus continues to impact the U.S., the basic services you rely on won't be going back to normal for weeks. If you haven't already, contact your OB or midwife and discuss a plan for continuing your care and how to handle your prenatal testing. You may also want to stock up on key supplies for your pregnancy and recovery such as food and medicines.
How to protect yourself from COVID-19
While there's no vaccine available for the coronavirus, all of the CDC's recommended preventive measures are the same as those you'd use to protect yourself from the flu:
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Stay home when you are sick.
Practice "social distancing" (see below).
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Make sure your children wash their hands properly as well.
If you're in a place where soap and water aren't available, the CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. If your hands are visibly dirty, wash them with soap and water as soon as you can.
Finally, it bears repeating that social distancing is a highly recommended step to take in protecting yourself and your family. Limiting contact with others outside your immediate family can reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Social distancing basics
Increasingly, authorities and medical experts are advising people to practice social distancing – minimizing contact with people outside your immediate family – especially if you live in a community where the virus is known to be spreading. Social distancing can help reduce your chances of contracting the virus or unknowingly spreading it to others. (Reports suggest people with the virus often don't show symptoms for several days.)
Exact guidelines for social distancing may vary from place to place, but in general, here is what experts are recommending:
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Stay home as much as possible. This includes minimizing nonessential shopping trips, travel, and outings. If your job allows it, work from home. Try to go out to stock up on food and necessities as infrequently as possible or have them delivered to your home.
Get outside, just keep your distance. You can still get fresh air and exercise – it's good for your stress level and health. You could go for a walk in the park, for example. Just keep at least 6 feet or more between yourself and others.
Cook at home. Dr. Asaf Bitton, a primary care physician and executive director of Ariadne Labs, writes in Medium that cooking at home is safer than getting take-out. He suggests buying restaurant gift cards for later use to support local businesses.
Connect digitally with friends and family. You can use FaceTime or Skype to check in with grandparents and friends who may be feeling isolated. Or try video chat apps like Zoom and Google Hangouts that allow you to get together as a group from your homes.
These measures may sound difficult, even extreme. However, this is not forever. If everyone does their part now to help slow the spread of COVID-19, we can save lives, prevent our health system from becoming overwhelmed, and improve our chances of returning to a normal routine sooner rather than later.
Keeping calm and dealing with COVID-19 stress
If you're worried about the coronavirus, you're not alone. In fact, it's perfectly normal to be feeling more anxious during pregnancy even when everything is okay in the world. Dealing with your stress head on and taking care of yourself in this time is the best thing you can do for a healthier pregnancy. Consider:
Just say no and slow down or even cut down on your to-do list. Now is not the time to be a rock star.
Drop or reassign some chores. Use the time you get back to decompress with a book, a nap, or however you prefer to relax.
Use sick or vacation days, if you have them, to just concentrate on yourself and staying calm.
Give deep breathing, meditation, stretching, or yoga a try.
Get outside when you can for a walk (while avoiding others, of course).
Plan healthy, well-balanced, and energy-boosting meals and snacks.
Go to bed early.
Skip the news overload. Yes, the coronavirus is a fast-changing story with developments that you probably should know about. But you don't need to be tapped into the newsfeed all day long. Also, avoid the more panicked social media pals or feeds you follow. Get your information from experts, not social media. You need to be informed, but you don't need to be crazed. Focus on yourself and your health.
Check in with support groups that offer real comfort. Explore the BabyCenter Community to connect with women who are sharing your experience.
If you feel like you're losing it, ask your healthcare provider for a recommendation for a therapist. Many can consult with you over the phone. Listen to their advice for dealing with your anxiety and stress. The self-care you can do now can pay off in a healthier pregnancy and reduces your chances for postpartum depression.
BabyCenter understands that the coronavirus pandemic is an evolving story and that your questions will change over time. We'll continue asking moms and dads in our Community what they want to know, and we'll get the answers from experts to keep them – and you – informed and supported.
This story was updated on March 30 to reflect the latest data from the CDC, the current guidance from many government and health organizations, tips on how to stay calm and reduce your anxiety, and suggestions on how you and your family can practice social distancing.