Many pregnant women are testing positive for COVID-19 in San Antonio, health officials say

10% to 20% of women going into labor test positive 'depending on the week'

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SAN ANTONIO – More pregnant women are testing positive for COVID-19 and it turns out they usually aren’t aware they have the virus to begin with, health officials said.

Since implementing a testing standard for all patients admitted to the University Health System facilities in San Antonio, officials have discovered that “many moms-to-be are positive for COVID-19.”

“The percentages of COVID-positive cases for women going into labor can range from 10 to 20 percent, depending on the week, and most of those show no symptoms,” said Elizabeth Allen, a spokesperson for UHS.

Sarah Page-Ramsey, an OB/GYN at UHS, said patients who test positive are generally surprised.

This doesn’t automatically mean bad news, however, as doctors and nurses are “able to keep mother and baby safe, monitor their health and prevent the spread of infection both in the hospital and when they go home,” Allen said in a press release.

Officials said breastfeeding is still possible after a mother has given birth and is encouraged by nurses.

“Fortunately, we are still able to give the mother that choice, and to help her with that important connection,” said Kate McLachlan, a lactation specialist for UHS.

Allen said even if a mother is COVID-19 positive, she would still be able to keep her baby in the room with her in most cases. The exceptions, similar for any birth, would be if the baby was born premature or if there were serious complications.

Expectant mothers who know when they are going to the hospital are tested two to three days before admission, but babies don’t always allow for that kind of notice, so all patients are treated with extra precautions and PPE until their COVID-19 test results are known, Allen said.

Newborns are also tested as “there appears to be a small risk of transmission from mother to baby in utero,” according to Patrick Ramsey, maternal-fetal specialist to OB/GYN services at UHS.

Patrick Ramsey also pointed to a study of the placentas of COVID-positive mothers who had microclots that could suggest future growth problems in the babies.

“But the information, so far, is limited, and we have much to learn before we know what the real risk,” he said.

According to Ramsey, “a recent study has suggested that pregnant women may be at some increased risk for intensive care admission and intubation when compared to non-pregnant patients. Fortunately, there does not appear to be any increased risk for mortality for women with COVID-19 in pregnancy.”

However, Ramsey noted that “these studies should be interpreted with caution because of the selective inclusion of patients, missing information on pregnancy status, and relatively small numbers.”

“Even if a mother is COIVD-positive, under most circumstances she is able to keep her baby in the room with her. The exceptions, as with any birth, are when the baby is premature or there are serious complications,” according to a University Health spokesperson.

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