We are in the midst of a health crisis that mankind has never faced before. Governments, doctors and health experts across the globe are trying and are confident of bringing this pandemic under control. In the meantime, despite lockdowns, isolation and quarantine, life goes on. For expectant mothers and those with newborns, the stress and anxiety are especially large. How do mothers protect themselves from infection before giving birth and then keep their newborn children safe?
Staying Safe During Pregnancy
The precautions that everyone needs to take to avoid infection are well known -social distancing and personal hygiene are key factors. The need to follow safety protocols is especially important for pregnant women. It is not that pregnancy places a woman at greater risk, it is just the natural and normal changes that women undergo during this time, both mental and physiological, should not be negatively affected by any additional health issues. That being said, according to the United States Government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a leader in the fight against COVID 19:
- Social distancing, staying away from people who are sick, sneezing or coughing and regular washing of hands with soap and water are the basics of keeping safe.
- No evidence has been found that the COVID 19 infection is passed on from mother to fetus.
- There is no evidence that a COVID 19 infection will cause problems during pregnancy or affect the health of the newborn.
- There is no evidence that breastfeeding causes the transmission of the infection to the infant.
- In fact, breast milk protects against many illnesses.
Also Read: Why you should breastfeed your baby
Because an individual may pass on the COVID 19 infection before that person develops any symptoms, mothers should, as a measure of abundant precaution:
- Wear a mask while near the baby.
- Wash hands before touching the baby.
- If a breast pump is being used and milk is being stored, ensure that everything is sterilized before use.
Keeping A Child Safe
With most viral infections, the young, whose immune systems have not yet developed are usually at the highest risk. However, this does not appear to be the case with COVID 19 where it is the elderly who are most at risk of being infected. That does not mean that infants and young children are immune – it means that the risk is significantly less.
Keeping a newborn safe is not difficult:
- Keep the newborn in one room which has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected using detergent and water.
- Repeat the cleaning regularly and when the cleaning is underway, take the baby to another equally clean part of the home.
- The birth of a child is a cause for celebration and family and friends all want to congratulate the parents and see the child. This must not happen. Mother and child must remain indoors and stay away from anyone who could be a source of infection.
- If there are religious or social rituals that must be performed after the birth of the child and which cannot be postponed, these should be done in such a way that mother and child are not placed at risk of infection.
- Keep siblings, who may be carrying the infection while not being sick themselves, away from the infant.
- A mother cannot cope with the demands of the newborn on her own and will need help. That should come from a limited number of people all of whom can be relied on to have taken all measures to avoid getting the infection themselves. Ideally, a few family members, living on the same premises, are the best ones to give the mother the help she needs.
- Mothers must not worry about COVID 19. This will cause anxiety, tension and stress which can affect the mother’s health, alertness and ability to provide the best possible care for her baby. Additionally, many highly respected medical specialists believe that a mother’s stress can be passed on to her baby with a negative impact on the infant’s health.
Pregnancy and childbirth are the most natural of occurrences and with a few simple precautions, both mother and fetus can stay safe from COVID 19.
Also Read: Common health issues of newborn babies
The best course of action for those who are pregnant or for infants or young children is to contact the Paediatrics and Neonatology Center of Excellence at Kauvery Hospital, Cantonment, Trichy. The highly skilled specialists here will be able to provide all the information needed to keep mother and child safe and if any COVID 19 or other medical issues should arise, ensure that the best possible treatment is given to enable a return to good health.