Pregnancy Awareness Week takes place in February each year and is a way to strengthen pregnancy education and stress important issues that promote a healthy pregnancy and safe motherhood.
This year, it takes place under the shroud of the COVID-19 pandemic, with soon-to-be mothers and new mothers unsurprisingly anxious about the effects contracting the virus, as well as vaccinating against it, may have on their newly-born or unborn children.
Pregnant women or recently pregnant women who are older, overweight, and have pre-existing medical conditions such as hypertension and diabetes seem to have an increased risk of developing severe COVID-19. When pregnant women develop severe disease, they also seem to more often require care in intensive care units than non-pregnant women of reproductive age.
Due to changes in their bodies and immune systems, we know that pregnant women can be badly affected by some respiratory infections. It is therefore important that they take precautions to protect themselves against COVID-19, and report possible symptoms (including fever, cough or difficulty in breathing) to their healthcare provider.
We still do not know if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the virus to her fetus or baby during pregnancy or delivery. Mothers with newborns, should wash their hands before and after touching your baby, and keep all surfaces clean. Mothers with symptoms of COVID-19 are advised to wear a medical mask, during any contact with the baby.
Transmission of active COVID-19 (virus that can cause infection) through breast milk and breastfeeding has not been detected to date. There is no reason to avoid or stop breastfeeding.
Immediate and continued skin-to-skin care, including kangaroo mother care, improves the temperature control of newborns and is associated with improved survival among newborn babies. Placing the newborn close to the mother also enables early initiation of breastfeeding which also reduces mortality.
The numerous benefits of skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks of transmission and illness associated with COVID-19.