So much is still unknown about pregnancy and COVID-19. We do know that contracting the disease comes with increased risk of severe illness, and a higher risk of preterm birth. But how an infection affects a person at different stages of pregnancy? Or a developing fetus? No one knows for sure. Would vaccination help mitigate these risks? The vaccines were never tested on pregnant people. Unlike elective surgeries, many of which were rescheduled during surges of the disease, having a baby cannot be postponed. How much additional danger is associated with labor and delivery during this pandemic? And the decisions that parents of newborns face—how to manage the demands of a child’s early life, in isolation—what added toll does that stress take?
Even in the darkest days of the pandemic, new life has found a way. But COVID-19 has made this most basic of human endeavors more fraught and more dangerous this year, everywhere the disease has touched.
Pregnant women often bear the brunt of shifting health resources, and past epidemics have made women and babies that much more vulnerable. During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, researchers estimate that more women and children likely died from the indirect effects of the epidemic than from the disease itself. Women were unable to access family planning, completed fewer care visits during pregnancy, and were more likely to give birth at home—which is riskier for both mom and baby. It became harder for women to access health-care facilities due to increased physical and financial barriers, as well as a fear of infection. Others were denied care if they were suspected of having Ebola.