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Maternal-fetal medicine expert shares ways expectant mothers can protect themselves from COVID-19

15% to 20% of OBGYN patients are COVID-19 positive; about 85% of positive cases are asymptomatic, expert says

SAN ANTONIO – Dr. Patrick Ramsey, chief of maternal-fetal medicine at UT Health San Antonio and University Health System, says expectant mothers and women who just gave birth need to take additional precautions to avoid infection during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 200 babies under 1 year old have tested positive for COVID-19 in San Antonio, Bexar County

Ramsey said expectant mothers or those who just gave birth should have a “forcefield” around them to prevent themselves and their babies from infection.

“Moms, as they’re approaching delivery, we really want to maintain kind of a forcefield around them so that they don’t have anybody that could potentially be sick,” Ramsey said.

The number of positive cases involving pregnant and delivering women has increased exponentially, Ramsey said. About 15 to 20% of OBGYN patients are COVID-19 positive, and about 85% of positive cases are asymptomatic.

Ramsey said contract tracing illustrates that many women got the virus at family or social gatherings.

“We have seen several women who have been very ill,” Ramsey said. “The solution was to ... get the baby delivered so that her respiratory status would improve, and it did.”

Andrea Ochoa, a second-time mother, delivered her baby at 40 weeks at University Hospital two weeks ago. At 38 weeks, she tested positive for COVID-19. Her symptoms included a headache, runny nose, earache and shivers.

Ochoa said she did not know how she contracted the virus.

“I was just nervous for the baby,” she said. “I was thinking maybe he’s going to get it as well.”

All women are tested when they check in for delivery at the hospital. Ochoa was still testing positive for the virus when she arrived for her delivery. But she said she was able to give birth without issues.

“They tried to make me feel comfortable and try to make it as normal as possible,” Ochoa said. “I had the baby, and I got to keep him. They didn’t take him away. I was able to breastfeed him.”

Ramsey says a mother who tests positive is included in the conversation about whether or not her baby is taken away from her at birth. Every newborn is tested for COVID-19 at birth and 48 hours after birth, Ramsey said.

“We’ve allowed them to stay with their baby if they’ve been counseled appropriately,” Ramsey said. “But she has to wear her mask. You have to have good hand hygiene. And from the breastfeeding standpoint, breastfeeding is still strongly recommended.”

San Antonio reported 211 positive COVID-19 cases involving children under the age of one as of July 17. The city has reported 3,067 cases in the pediatric group for those under the age of 18, including 686 cases involving children 6 to 10 years old.

Metro Health said it has seen a slow increase in pediatric cases since May. The infection rate went from 4.6% in May to 6.4% in June to 11.2% in July.

Two pediatric deaths have been reported. According to Metro Health, the deaths were those of patients who were between 10 and 19 years old.

Ramsey said expectant mothers need to be cautious before and after delivery.

“If you have a newborn at home or you’re late in your pregnancy, be careful of who is around you,” Ramsey said. “Make sure that nobody’s sick, who doesn’t need to be around your baby or you, and really try to minimize those risks.”

Ochoa said delivering a baby in the COVID-19 era may prove to be a difficult time. She urges all expectant mothers to keep a positive mindset and have a strong support system.


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