As a public service, Shaw Media will provide open access to information related to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) emergency. Sign up for the newsletter here

SYCAMORE -- Nichole Wiepert, of Prairie Point OB/GYN, 1675 Bethany Road in Sycamore, said she feels for expectant mothers during this time, as a mom of three herself.

"I haven't had a single OB visit since this whole thing has emerged where this hasn't been something a patient has brought up," Wiepert said. "Everyone's hyper-aware of pregnancy now, and this has added another layer of anxiety on top of an already anxiety-provoking place in people's minds."

As of Tuesday, Wiepert said pregnant women under 32-weeks who are exhibiting symptoms now qualify to get tested, and should call their doctor to set up a test.

She spoke with Shaw Media Illinois to help address some common questions about the coronavirus as it related to pregnancy.

Q: Am I at greater risk of contracting the coronavirus if pregnant?
A: At this time it doesn't appear that pregnant women are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, but the information we have is limited. We know that during pregnancy, women’s immune systems are more compromised, so women can be at risk for developing complications. So pregnant women should be extra cautious to avoid illnesses.

Q: What are the chances I'll be able to get tested for COVID-19 if I'm pregnant?
A: Pregnant women under 32 weeks or those who are postpartum who have flu like symptoms and a fever now qualify for COVID-19 testing.  Patients meeting those criteria should contact their healthcare provider to arrange for testing. They should also contact their provider if they are experiencing severe symptoms at any gestational age particularly shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

Q: What if I do get it while pregnant?
A: Similar to other patient populations, if you have mild symptoms, you are encouraged to remain at home and essentially self quarantine to try and avoid the spread to others, both in our family and in the community. If you can and have the facilities, try to keep to your own bedroom, bathroom, avoid sharing as much as you can with other family members. If you were to develop more serious s, symptoms, shortness of breath, persistent high fevers, further deterioration, then you’d want to contact your provider.

Q: If I have COVID-19 while pregnant, will it infect my unborn baby?
A: At this time, we don’t think the virus is passed through the placenta to the baby though there have been some newborns that have developed symptoms within the first couple days after birth, so the thought is that that’s most likely from close contact after birth.

I also wanted to clarify there are conflicting reports as to potential adverse effects on the fetus. Unlike some other viral illnesses (ie Zika virus) COVID-19 does not appear to be associated with birth defects though a high fever early in pregnancy can lead to certain birth defects, and pregnant women with Covid-19 may be at higher risk of preterm birth.

Q: What about postpartum? Will I have to be separated from my baby for social distancing?
A: The recommendation is for women who have it or are under investigation, that we do separate the mother and the infant until we know that the risk of transmission to the infant would be low. So unfortunately, that is a particularly difficult situation. I think that’s probably one of the worst and scariest parts of this for pregnancy patients is thinking about the possibility of potentially having to be separated from their infant after their birth.

Q: I'm scared I'll have to labor alone. Will my spouse, partner or loved one be allowed in the birthing room?
A: Our hospital here has limited visitors significantly just to help decrease the spread of the virus. At this time they are still allowing one visitor to accompany our laboring patients, to provide support during that special time in their lives and not be excluded from that.

Q: What if I work in healthcare? Should I stay home or keep going to work if I'm expecting?
A: It doesn’t appear that pregnant women are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, they're not recommending that healthcare providers stop working or remove themselves from the workplace, but again just use those extra precautions.

Other organizations have recommended especially if it's a procedure that would be at higher risk (aerosol generators like intubating their patient) to keep pregnant healthcare people out of the room during that time.

For more local news, visit Daily Chronicle at https://www.daily-chronicle.com.

Coronavirus