Coronavirus: Expecting during the unexpected


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Expectant parents Philip and Ashley Stevens are preparing for the birth of their first child in mid-June. In all likelihood, the pair will not be permitted to have visitors come to see their baby girl post-birth.

“They’re saying you’re not allowed to have visitors at the hospital, which is kind of sad,” Ashley Stevens said. “With her being our first child, you want people to be excited and come visit and be excited to celebrate with you. So that’s kind of hard to think about.”

The Stevens have done the research and followed CDC guidelines for social distancing and sanitation, but there remains an underlying concern for the unknown for their growing family of three.

“As you find out more news and there’s more cases of pregnant women (having COVID-19), it kind of makes you scared,” Stevens said.

The Data

Due to the novelty of the virus, there is a lot that doctors don’t know yet as it pertains to COVID-19 and its impact expectant mothers. Maternal-Fetal Medicine Physician at UT Medical Center, Dr. Kim Fortner, said at this time they’ve seen no increased risk for pregnant mothers to contract the virus.

“Even though pregnant women are more susceptible to viruses like the flu and things that are kindred or sort of like coronavirus, at this point in time, pregnant women don’t appear to have an increased risk compared to non-pregnant adults,” Fortner said.

Fortner said that of the expectant mothers who’ve contracted COVID-19, it has been most commonly contracted during the third trimester. In the reports available, there’s been very little risk of passing COVID-19 directly to the child if a mother has contracted the virus.

“There’s no evidence of the virus in amniotic fluid,” Fortner said. “There’s no evidence of the virus in breastfeeding and there’s no evidence even in the cord blood. That’s very reassuring.”

The Changes

While expectant mothers do not appear to be at higher risk to contract COVID-19, UT Medical Center has adopted several changes as it pertains to prenatal care including the frequency of visitation.

“A lot of the society guidelines say that instead of coming every month that perhaps during this point and time you would come every month during your pregnancy,” Fortner explained. “To the extent possible and certainly based where you are in pregnancy.”

In addition to spacing out visits through the first four to five months of pregnancy, UT Medical is trying to do more with fewer visits.

“Instead of just coming for one visit you might end up coming for an ultrasound and a registration visit,” Fortner explained.

Prenatal care has also been added to the growing list of things that are going virtual.

“We’re trying to talk a lot about kick counts,” Fortner said. “When women have complications with pregnancy we’re trying to manage those complications remotely meaning follow your blood sugars at home or follow your blood pressures. Certainly under the care of your provider but just doing anything to limit the number of visits.”


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