Welcome to Ask Doctor Zac, a new column from news.com.au.
This week Dr Zac Turner answers a question about how to stay safe from COVID-19 while pregnant and what to do when you have a newborn baby and people want to visit.
QUESTION: I’m a 34-year-old woman who’s usually quite healthy and active. I’m currently seven months pregnant and I’m really worried about catching COVID. I live in Victoria and don’t go out a lot but need to do my hour of exercise a day to stay sane! What are the dangers of COVID-19 for pregnant women and is there anything I can do to a) lessen my chances of getting it and b) make sure the virus doesn’t affect me too much if I do get it? Also, when my baby is born should I have any visitors or keep everyone away until there’s a vaccine? So many of my friends and family say they’re going to visit and I’d love to see people but I’m agonising over whether it will put my baby at risk. Caroline, Melbourne.
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ANSWER: Hello Caroline, thanks for your question.
Stage 4 lockdown can be a gauntlet of anxiety, fears and speculation of the future and all the while we are searching for ways to fill our time cooped up inside. I cannot imagine the added pressure experiencing lockdown for two. My first piece of advice is to close your eyes and breath. Your baby feels your stress and worry and I’m helping you to reassure your baby everything is okay.
If you ever have any issues, questions or worries make sure you always go straight to your doctor. You still have access to the same medical advice in lockdown and do not feel afraid to reach out.
It’s great to hear that you are making the most of your one hour of exercise a day. Exercise can be crucial to good health and feeling great – especially during pregnancy when you are working out for two. Pregnant women receive a multitude of health benefits from regular exercise, such as regulated weight control and blood pressure, as well as increased cardiovascular fitness, which make for a healthy pregnancy.
I understand that exercise can be difficult during the later trimesters of pregnancy but a quick 20-minute exercise can give you a boost of energy for the day and overall strengthen your body for labour.
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The best part about your daily exercise is you are building a habit that will continue post-partum – meaning you will be able to keep up with the tasks of a newborn baby.
Always make sure the exercise is suitable to your condition and never push yourself to injury. I recommend looking up pregnancy exercises during your 23 hours locked in the house!
My advice to lessen your chance of catching COVID-19 is the same as for everyone else. Wash your hands, wear a mask in public and respect social distancing. Live by those simple rules and you’ll have a better chance of not catching it.
Generally speaking, pregnant women are more susceptible to differing types of respiratory infections, such as the flu. Even so, studies have shown there’s no concrete evidence suggesting that pregnant women are more prone to COVID-19 than other people.
Your immune system is not significantly weakened during pregnancy and so you are not vulnerable in terms of infection but definitely in terms of complications from being infected. It has been shown that COVID-19 can cause foetal distress, miscarriage, respiratory distress and preterm delivery in pregnant women but it does not infect newborns.
If you do happen to catch the virus follow all advice from your doctor. Stay hydrated and make sure to eat well.
Regarding the visits, I recommend social distancing as the best strategy to limit the risk of your baby becoming infected. Your rule of thumb should be if they don’t live in the same house as the baby they should not visit. Rather than family and friends coming over, set up a zoom conference or facetiae to introduce the baby. And you should limit taking your baby outside for necessary reasons such as visiting the doctor.
All those who handle the baby should be washing their hands before and after and any household member with COVID-19 symptoms should isolate themselves from the baby immediately
It may seem all doom and gloom with this advice but this pandemic is only the start of your child’s long, healthy life. Not before long this will be a memory and things will have gone back to normal.
Dr Zac Turner has a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Sydney. He has worked as a Registered Nurse, both in Australia and internationally and is also a qualified and experienced biomedical scientist.