Ask The Expert

We are currently facing the worst times in our country, battling the second wave of coronavirus. While this super spreader infection is affecting all age groups indiscriminately, there are few vulnerable people requiring immediate attention like senior adults, children, patients with comorbidities, cancer patients, and pregnant and lactating mothers.

Arrival of a baby signals happiness and cheer in a family but in these days and times of pandemic, pregnant women, new mothers, and their families should exercise extra caution.

COVID-19 and pregnancy

We spoke to Dr Surakshith Battina, Gynecologist and Endoscopy Specialist at Indigo Women's Center, on the dos and don’ts for pregnant women, lactating mothers and also those currently undergoing or planning infertility treatments in near future.

Here are the answers for all FAQs:

We are coming across cases where pregnant women are also being tested positive for Coronavirus. What should one do in such a scenario?

Women who have tested covid positive during pregnancy need not the press panic button instantly. Most importantly isolate, mask up and use sanitization when necessary and follow the standard protocol. Keep in touch with your gynaecologist over teleconsultation. If you are near term at 38-39 weeks, we suggest you get admitted either at your treating doctor’s clinic or at a covid delivery centre. If breathlessness increases or spo2 drops below 94 %, get admitted to a delivery unit, immediately.

Will there be any effects on the baby if the mother is tested Covid positive?

So far, no studies show that babies born to Covid mothers have any problems, however, during the second wave in India, there are instances where Covid babies showed lung signs requiring ventilation.

Are there any special measures that need to be taken by pregnant women in these pandemic times?

Reduce the number of antenatal visits. Plan a teleconsultation when available and stay isolated, wear a mask and maintain good hygiene.

What are your labour and delivery recommendations for pregnant women due in the next three months?

Women in their 38th week should take a covid test as early as possible and then if they do not progress to labour by 39 weeks, she can get a covid test and admit herself to the hospital for a labour induction or an elective C section.

Can new mothers feed babies if tested positive for Coronavirus?

Mother-baby bonding is extremely important from Day 1. Covid positive mothers can feed their baby by taking precautions like good hygiene and wearing a mask while feeding. It is likely that some antibodies may be transferred to the baby and there may be immunity against COVID although more studies are being done in that aspect.

What is your take on those women currently undergoing active infertility treatment like IUI, IVF, ICSI? Do you suggest putting it on hold for the next couple of months?

Women undergoing treatment should not delay especially those above 36 years of age because the fertility potential keeps declining rapidly after that. We suggest you contact your healthcare professional and discuss vaccination against COVID before starting fertility treatment.

Is it advisable to plan for infertility treatments in the next three months, if they had tested positive recently? How should the couple prepare themselves physically and mentally for the long haul during the treatment?

The only reason to delay treatment is if the patient is currently COVID positive or symptomatic. COVID - 19 has no effect in fertility although COVID has been isolated in the sperm, it doesn’t seem to affect fertility. Although more long-term data are required to know the complete effects of COVID on fertility. Couples looking forward to undergoing treatment must stay focused on continuing treatment as it can be tailored such that they spend as less time as possible at the hospital.

Can pregnant women and lactating mothers get vaccinated?

In India, the data with regards to the safety in vaccinating pregnant and lactating mothers are not yet revealed by the vaccine manufacturers, hence, is not being currently recommended in our country.

However, in countries like US, there has been no data to suggest adverse effects of vaccination in pregnant or lactating mothers. Any vaccine even if present in milk gets quickly digested in the baby’s digestive system. There is a possibility that breast feeding may provide babies with the antibodies required for immunity against COVID. In the US several pregnant and lactating women have been vaccinated already and none showed any adverse effects. 

 Dr Surakshith

Dr. Surakshith Battina, MD is a Gynecologist, Infertility Specialist and Director of Laproscopic Surgery at Indigo Womens Center, Chennai.