Prenatal Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic From the Expert January 4, 2022 By: Amy Bingaman, MD Pregnancy is a special time full of excitement to welcome a new addition into your family. However pregnancy is also a time of great change to your body, which requires extra care. This extra care, known as prenatal care, is the foundation of a healthy pregnancy, labor, and delivery. COVID-19 has made it more important than ever to start early in addressing both your physical and mental prenatal care. In a time of continued uncertainty, here are a few action steps you can take to help to ensure a healthy outcome for you and your baby. 1. Follow the recommended COVID-19 mitigation strategies. CDC data shows that people who are pregnant or recently pregnant are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 than those who are not. More than 125,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported in pregnant Americans throughout the pandemic. Of those, more than 22,000 were hospitalized and 161 died. In August alone, 21 pregnant women died. To protect you and your baby from COVID-19, it is important that you wear a mask, wash your hands often, and avoid ill people. We recommend a COVID-19 vaccination, especially in pregnancy. There is currently no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine causes fertility problems, or that the vaccination is not safe or effective to take during pregnancy. COVID-19 can be particularly dangerous for unborn babies. The CDC found that COVID-19 increases the risk of a stillbirth. A JAMA study found a pregnant individual with COVID-19 is 22 times more likely to have a preterm birth, which can be detrimental to a baby’s development 2. Prioritize your mental health care. Pregnancy brings a mix of feelings, and not all of them are good. If you're feeling worried, you're not alone. Worry is common. On top of the traditional bag of emotions, you are now likely also feeling heightened anxiety about the impacts of COVID-19 on your health and the health of your family. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that nearly half of adults in the US reported their mental health has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Early research indicates that pregnant individuals and new parents are even more vulnerable to the negative impact as they are facing isolation, potential changes in birth plans, access to health care, and other social determinants of health challenges. Around 20% of pregnant people experience anxiety or depression during their pregnancy. Depression can be debilitating. It is important to talk to your doctor about steps you can take early in your pregnancy to cope with your perinatal mental health and possible postpartum depression. 3. Follow basic prenatal care guidance. Prenatal care should start as early as possible – ideally, before you even get pregnant. Taking care of your health can not only make your pregnancy healthier and easier, but also help to ensure your child is healthy throughout their life. A few tips for this include: Start following a balanced diet and getting regular exercise. A healthy lifestyle will get your pregnancy off to a good start by reducing your risk of potentially serious pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes. Go to the doctor early and regularly. These visits will give your doctor time to review your medical conditions and prescriptions to spot any possible problems for the health of your baby, as well as a plan to address them. Start taking folic acid every day. Ideally you should start taking 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid prior to getting pregnant. This will reduce your risk of birth defects of the brain and spine. In addition to the COVID-19 vaccination, you should get your flu vaccination and any other vaccinations that need to be updated. Stop smoking and drinking alcohol. If you need support with your prenatal care, Broadlawns Medical Center is here to help. The Broadlawns OB/GYN Clinic is committed to helping individuals of all ages receive the healthcare that they need at every stage of their lives. Our team of expert providers are dedicated to excellence, compassion, and personalized care. Broadlawns OB/GYN services are available at our Main Campus, as well as at our Cityville Clinic and East University Clinic. All forms of insurance accepted. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call (515) 282-2340.