Dr Erica Watson (Lecturer in Reproductive Biology, at University of Cambridge) talks about why pregnant women are now considered to be an at risk group for COVID-19.
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Yesterday the Government announced that pregnant women are now considered in the high risk group for COVID-19 and are being advised to limit their social interactions. But why might pregnant women be more at risk for COVID-19? We spoke to Erica Watson, Lecturer in Reproductive Biology at the University of Cambridge.
She told us that in pregnancy, women’s immune systems are naturally weakened, so that their bodies don’t reject the developing baby. This puts them at higher risk for bacterial and viral infection. This means that they might not be able to fight off the COVID-19 virus as well as someone who is not pregnant. It may also increase their risk for severe symptoms, such as pneumonia. Pneumonia affects lung function and, since the developing baby relies on the mother for oxygen, poorly functioning lungs in the mother will affect how much oxygen the baby gets.
But there is still a lot we don’t know about the effect of COVID-19 on a developing baby, for example whether it can infect the baby while it is still in the womb, the risk of transmission at birth and the effects of COVID-19 on the placenta. The placenta is an organ which develops during pregnancy and provides the baby with oxygen and nutrients, as well as protecting from infection.
COVID-19 is a new virus and scientists are only beginning to understand how it attacks the body and the symptoms that result. Given that we are not yet sure how COVID-19 affects pregnancy, it is recommended that pregnant women practice social distancing to protect themselves and their baby.
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