COVID-19 and pregnancy: B.C. doctor explains what parents-to-be can expect during the pandemic
VANCOUVER -- With COVID-19 cases still surging in B.C., expectant parents may be wondering how the pandemic could affect a pregnancy.
CTV News Vancouver spoke with Dr. Kathleen Ross, Doctors of BC president and maternity specialist at Royal Columbian Hospital, about what those impacts could be and how pregnant people can stay safe.
The following is part of a five-minute interview and has been edited for length and clarity. Watch the full interview above.
Norma Reid: What is your advice to pregnant patients trying to manage their anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Dr. Kathleen Ross: I think the really good news is that the incidence of COVID-19 and pregnancy in B.C. is actually really quite low. The majority of those cases are actually mild illnesses and most of the reports from around the world don't show that pregnant women have more significant or serious illness, aside from those that are carrying risk that we already know: obesity, age over 35, hypertension and pre-existing diabetes.
Reid: A recent study from the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that just came out in the last couple of weeks has found that pregnant women are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Based on the data that you have, what risks are there to a pregnancy if a woman catches COVID?
Ross: People need to understand that this is a new virus, so we're still learning a great deal. But the CDC in the U.S. study did reiterate that our pregnant women are at no greater risk to contract COVID than the general population of similar age.
Reid: What risks could happen if a pregnant woman does get COVID?
Ross: There are some case reports and evidence that says pre-term birth, sometimes premature rupture of membranes and some evidence about baby's growth rate slowing. So you may well see your primary care obstetrical provider adding in additional ultrasounds to follow the growth of the baby if you've tested positive for COVID.
Reid: Can the fetus also get COVID or develop poor lungs as a result? What effects are your seeing from mom to baby?
Ross: To date there's no consistent evidence of any transmission in utero from mom to the fetus. And there's no association with congenital anomalies of any kind to date. Unfortunately, yes, some transmission could occur from mother to baby in the newborn period, and we just take every precaution to ensure that the viral transmission is low.
Reid: What should pregnant women say to their bosses to protect them from COVID-19?
Ross: I think it's really important that women who are pregnant double down on the personal protective measures that we know stop transmission. We want to ensure that those are particularly in place in the workplace: physical distancing, washing your hands frequently, keeping a mask on if you're going to be in close quarters and you can't physically distance, try not to touch your face.
Employers have been by and large supportive of increased work from home or ensuring that we're able to meet those criteria.
Reid: Should pregnant women get the vaccine when it's available?
Ross: I think if the pregnant women are higher risk then yes, absolutely, we should look at that. But the vaccine is a ways away from rolling out right now.
Reid: What can people expect in delivery?
Ross: You can expect to be asked COVID-related questions at the door and then again when you come onto the maternity unit. We encourage you to wear a mask when you're moving around the unit. You don't need to labour in your mask, that's for sure. And we're limiting the number of visitors that you have. So one support person only, and we ask you not to bring a large number of items from home.