By Lola Seriki-Idahosa
In 2019, a new virus hit the world scene, a novel coronavirus, responsible for the respiratory disease COVID-19. With Zika virus and its risks of birth abnormalities still fresh on many people’s minds, pregnant women may have added another worry to their growing lists.
And in 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO)Trusted Source declared the global outbreak of COVID-19 a “public health emergency of international concern.”
COVID-19 is still a new disease that hasn’t been well studied. How it affects pregnant women and their developing babies isn’t fully known thereby causing. nerve-wracking.
Coronavirus, medical experts say, are a family of viruses that circulate in both humans and animals and can cause everything from the common cold to more serious respiratory illnesses.
The most common symptoms whether you’re pregnant or not include cough, fever, shortness of breath fatigue. Other symptoms include: chills, which may sometimes occur alongside repeated shaking sore throat, headache, loss of smell or taste, muscle aches and pains.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report shows that pregnant women are more susceptible than others to all kinds of respiratory infections, such as the flu. This is partly because pregnancy changes the immune system and partly because of the way pregnancy impacts lungs and heart.
Even so, as of March 2020, there was no concrete evidence suggesting that pregnant women were more prone to COVID-19 than other people, says a 2020 study. And even if they do get the infection, the researchers go on to point out, they’re no more likely than others to get severe complications of the disease, like pneumonia.
Treatment for COVID-19 is similar to the treatment of other respiratory illnesses. Whether you’re pregnant or not, doctors advise, taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) for a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
staying well hydrated with water or low-sugar drinks, rest. .
The Centers For Disease Control and prevention (CDC) further notes that pregnant women who have gotten other related coronaviruses have a greater chance of having worse outcomes than pregnant women who don’t get these infections.
Issues like miscarriage, preterm birth, stillbirth, and having a more severe infection have all been observed in pregnant women with other coronaviruses. And a high fever in the first trimester of pregnancy, regardless of its cause, can lead to birth defects.
A small sampling of pregnant women with COVID-19, according to WHO, shows that the overwhelming majority didn’t have severe cases. Of the 147 women studied, 8 percent had severe COVID-19 and 1 percent were critical.
Also, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists reports that while some Chinese women with coronavirus symptoms have given birth to preterm babies, it’s unclear whether the babies were born early because of the infection or because doctors decided to risk a premature delivery because the moms-to-be were unwell. They’ve also seen no evidence that this particular coronavirus causes miscarriage.
Judging from the women who have given birth while infected with this coronavirus, the answer is probably that it’s unlikely — or more accurately, that there’s no definitive evidence that it does.
COVID-19 is a disease that’s mainly passed from person to person through droplets (think the coughs and sneezes of infected people). Your baby can only be exposed to such droplets after birth.
In one tiny study looking at nine pregnant Chinese women infected with the new coronavirus in the last trimester of pregnancy, the virus didn’t show up in samples taken from their amniotic fluid or cord blood or in throat swabs of the newborns.
However, in one slightly larger studyTrusted Source, three newborns born to women with COVID-19 did test positive for the virus. The other 30 newborns in the group tested negative, and researchers aren’t sure whether the babies who tested positive really contracted the virus in utero or if they got it shortly after delivery.
For Hajiya Amina Mohammed, 31, resident in Kaduna, North west Nigeria, her marriage of fifteen years would have been history during her fourth pregnancy, if COVID-19 was a death sentence due to her status.
According to her, carrying fourth pregnancy was like a torture because she was diagnosed of Covid-19 positive when she was six months pregnant.
“Before I was diagnosed I was always having high fever, loss of taste. I never experienced these in my previous pregnancies, I visited hospital for check up and was told to do Covid-19 test which I did and it came out positive.
“One thing that ran through my mind was that could this be true? .I started imagining what I will go through, I will be isolated, I was depressed, in pain and I felt like crying and that was what I actually did, I cried, soon I realised I have to be strong for my children and my unborn child
“During my experience, the first thing I did was to immediately go into isolation center, I forced myself to face the reality and doing what I was told to do, I was restricted to a room, take my drugs regularly, this led to fatigue, dizziness, apart from my normal daily drugs, I was also placed on drugs ‘acetaminophen’ (Tylenol), water and low sugar drugs, with alot of rest”, She narrated
Covid-19 Pandemic has led to a dramatic loss of human lives worldwide and presents an unprecedented challenge to public health.
Amina’s story is not peculiar, as a large number of women in Nigeria suffer from the same Covid-19 challenge in pregnancies.
Ironically, a number of them have no idea what it takes to carry a pregnancy with Covid-19.
Pregnant women were found to be at a higher risk for covid-19 Infection than people who are not pregnant, what they experience is more adverse and severe outcomes compare to non-pregnant women, most of them face fear of the unknown.
A high frequency of maternal mental health problems such as clinically relevant anxiety and depression, increase the problem.
According to, Dr. Oyefabi Adegboyega, the Team Lead Infectious Disease Control Centers Kaduna, says 44% of Covid-19 patients are females while 55% are males, which makes the figure 8,884 infected in kaduna as at the time of this exclusive interview with the team leader. Dr Oyefabi Adegboyega, the Team Lead Infectious Disease Control Centers Kaduna State.
Out of the 8,884, 3,908 are females, 4,976 are males and 20 out of the females are pregnant women, non of the pregnant women had severe or critical cases of covid-19.
“In the process of moving around, the male comes in contact with people that carries the virus. Access to health care is limited for women because they have to seek consent from their husbands and other factors.
“We have four types of covid-19 cases which are Mild covid-19 (it is also known as asymptomatic covid). The patient may test positive yet showing no symptoms. Moderate Covid (the patient will show only few symptoms like cough, fever, or slight difficulty in breathing). Severe Covid which requires oxygen therapy.
“In Kaduna state, less than 10 critical or severe cases were managed with no survivor. Pregnant women are least expected with critical cases, about three pregnant women delivered at our center.
“We also noticed that children who were expected to show severe cases symptoms were more immune. “There is much experience of heightened risk of covid-19 in pregnant women what they are mostly scared of is, if they will lose the baby or the person may die due to complications or abortion, bleeding or risk of infection. In our centers, we have gynaecologist to also help manage them.
“Covid has been with us since the 80’s , it was Covid 1 then. It originated from China, Japan and the middle east. In 1987, the first one occurred and in the 2019 the second one was discovered.
On the 27th of March 2020, Kaduna state discovered it’s first case. Variants are labelled based on country with evolved Covid like the UK and some other countries. One of these variant has been identified in Nigeria but it is not widely spread in Kaduna and the new variant in Nigeria is rear.
“Unborn child can’t be at risk because it can’t be transmitted through maternal placenta and it’s not blood bonded. “We can’t give vaccine to pregnant women because the safety of the vaccine in pregnant women has not been established. Lactating mothers are not on our treatment protocol for the Covid 19 vaccine.
Complications can arise in pregnant women with Covid-19, yes, it’s possible not because of the virus, but because of psychological problems like being anxious, worry, depression fear or she may have undermined conditions that is why we pay closer attention to pregnant women.
“What my team does is to not only admit people and give them drugs, what we do here is comprehensive management which includes psychological therapy in the sense that we visit such patient frequently and show them samples of those pregnant patients who have already been discharged to calm them down and we also allow their husbands or other family members to visit them once in a while. Those pregnant women that were admitted all did well and have all been discharged. No correct Covid treating doctor will keep a pregnant woman at home.
“I can’t encourage pregnant woman to do self medication at home, that is not advisable to stay at home and steam yourself because people have done that and have gone to critical stages. It is better you are diagnosed and come to the center on time to assess your state and determine what you need on time.
“Imagine someone in the critical stage, the person will kill his/herself if the person tries self medication.
The Kaduna state government has done a lot of good works by letting no one pay for being admitted, feeding and accommodation , are all free.
Nurse Justina B Mbat who is in charge of clinical, General Hospital Sabon Tasha Kaduna state said “a lot of pregnant women still doubt the existence of the covid-19 pandemic, which makes us to force them to comply during antenatal.
“We educate them on Covid-19 compliance every time they come for antenatal and we also make sure they comply, we have not had any case of Covid-19 on pregnant women in this hospital.
“Our antenatal visit days is three days in a week because of the numbers of pregnant women who Registered here, in a week we attend to over five hundred pregnant women and over one hundred in a day, this antenatal unit was formally meant for thirty-five patients, there’s need for bigger space.
According to another Nurse, Beatrice Azeeh, “we are very careful the way we handle pregnant women, It is of utmost importance to the pregnant women to get in touch with the ANC providers if they encounter COVID-19 symptoms or if they are exposed to people with COVID-19; it is not our duty to treat Covid-19 patients if they are positive, we refer them to isolation center.
In an interview with some Pregnant women, eight months pregnant Yami Obadia, said this was her third pregnancy and that this particular one was not easy due to fear and stress, even though she had not seen anyone with Covid-19. “I prevent myself and my children. One of my major problems in this hospital is social distancing, the nurses attend to us in batch, you have to stay outside until it gets to your turn, the antenatal unit needs an expansion”, she concludes.
Blessing Paul, a Five months pregnant woman with two children and three miscarriages, said she always observed all the covid-19 guideline, “am trying all my best to see that I and my unborn child are safe”.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19-related infection, pregnant women should be vigilant, keep social distancing, restrict visitors, and frequently wash hands with soap or use 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Necessary training be provided to healthcare providers in infection management in addition to ante- and post-natal care, there should be a clinical priority to efficiently deal with COVID-19 to minimize fatalities.
Government initiatives are also needed to support pregnant women who need remote ANC during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing access to mobile devices and network services. Furthermore, government regulations require enforcement to ensure pregnant women’s privacy while taking advantage of online ANC services. There’s also the need for expansion of hospitals in Kaduna state.
Presently, the ANC units are too small for the growing population of Pregnant women.
Health care policy and maternity care practices should focus not only on keeping women safe from COVID-19 infection but also on increasing women’s overall feelings of safety and control in their birthing environment, hospital should be safe for labor and delivery, the definition of safety should be broadened to include psychological safety. A positive health care maternity care experience for a woman giving birth in a hospital, even during an unprecedented pandemic, can have a lasting impact on how she and her family interact with health care for the rest of their lives.
The common question is, how illness affects the baby while you’re pregnant?.
According to experts, one should always let her doctor know if she develops fever during pregnancy because certain viruses which include cytomegalovirus (CMV), varicella-zoster,
Zika virus, rubella, parvovirus B19, herpes and HIV may affect the baby’s health.
Lola Seriki-Idahosa, is a Journalist based in Kaduna, Nigeria. This article is part of Covid-19 Response: Together for reliable information project implemented by PAGED Initiative Supported by EU and Free Press Unlimited.