THERE have been calls for more home births, to avoid hospital attendance during the Covid-19 crisis. But while it is not known whether pregnant women are at a higher or lower risk of contracting the virus, the risk of severe disease or death in healthy pregnant women or babies is very low, state university researchers who are appraising the current state of knowledge.
An article titled Pregnancy and COVID-19: Lessons so far has been published online by the Healthy Newborn Network (HNN). Its lead author is Pasang Tamang, who is a PhD researcher at the University of Huddersfield, supervised by Padam Simkhada, who is the University’s Professor of Global Health.
The Huddersfield duo have collaborated on the research with colleagues at the University of Bournemouth and its Centre for Midwifery, Maternal and Perinatal Health.
The HNN article states that so far little is known about the effect of Covid-19 on pregnant women and babies and the evidence for transmitting the virus from mother to baby is inconclusive. One study has shown some evidence that the virus can pass from an infected mother to her baby, but no major harmful effects have been recorded.
The article includes advice to expectant mothers on how to avoid the virus. It includes postponing any social events such as baby showers.
In the UK, there are fewer face-to-face appointments with their midwife or other health care professionals and more contact by telephone or online, state the researchers, who add that “although routine tests and scans are proceeding as planned, those pregnant women who have signs of Covid-19 or who are self-isolating are advised not to attend their antenatal appointment. Instead, they should inform their midwife and follow guidance about when to seek medical assistance.”
Professor Simkhada continues to research dimensions of the pandemic. The University of Huddersfield has provided rapid response funding so that he can investigate why black, Asian and other ethnic minority communities are disproportionately affected by the virus. This is a key issue, hence the announcement that equality campaigner Baroness Doreen Lawrence has been asked by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to head an enquiry.
Researcher Pasang Tamang will join Professor Simkhada for his probe of the effects of Covid-19 on ethnic minorities. Before relocating to the UK for PhD study, she worked for Save the Children in her native Nepal as Knowledge Management and Advocacy Co-ordinator in the Saving Newborn Lives III project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.