Expeditious separation of the COVID-19–positive mother from her infant is recommended, including avoidance of delayed cord clamping because of insufficient evidence of benefit to the infant. Insufficient evidence exists to support vertical transmission, but the possibility of maternal-infant transmission is clinically accepted based on small case reports of infection in a neonate at 30 hours of life and in infants of mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.6,7 Accordingly, it is recommended that the benefit of early infant separation should be discussed with the mother. If approved, the infant should be kept in a separate isolation area and observed.
There is no evidence of breast milk transmission of the virus. For those electing to breastfeed, the patient should be provided with a breast pump to express and store the milk for subsequent bottle feeding. For mothers who elect to room in with the infant, a separation distance of 6 feet is recommended with an intervening barrier curtain. For COVID-19–positive mothers who elect breastfeeding, meticulous hand and face washing, continuous wearing of a mask, and cleansing of the breast prior to feeding needs to be maintained.
Restrictive visiting policies of no more than one visitor should be maintained. For severely or critically ill patients with COVID-19, it has been suggested that no visitors be allowed. As with other hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients, the HCW contact should be kept at a justifiable minimum to reduce the risk of transmission.
Protecting the obstetrician and other HCWs
Protecting the health of obstetricians and other HCWs is central to any successful strategy to fight the COVID-19 epidemic. For the individual obstetrician, careful attention to national and local hospital guidelines is required as these are rapidly evolving.
Physicians and their leadership must maintain an ongoing dialogue with hospital leadership to continually upgrade and optimize infection prevention and control measures, and to uphold best practices. The experience in Wuhan, China, illustrates the effectiveness of the proper use of PPE along with population control measures to reduce infections in HCWs. Prior to understanding the mechanism of virus transmission and using protective equipment, infection rates of 3%-29% were reported among HCWs. With the meticulous utilization of mitigation strategies and population control measures – including consistent use of PPE – the rate of infection of HCWs reportedly fell to zero.
In outpatient offices, all staff and HCWs should wear masks at all times and engage in social distancing and in frequent hand sanitization. Patients should be strongly encouraged to wear masks during office visits and on all other occasions when they will be in physical proximity to other individuals outside of the home.
Reports from epidemic areas describe transmission from household sources as a significant cause of HCW infection. The information emphasizes the need for ongoing vigilance and attention to sanitization measures even when at home with one’s family. An additional benefit is reduced risk of transmission from HCWs to family members.
Dr. Bahado-Singh is professor and chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Oakland University, Rochester, Mich., and health system chair for obstetrics and gynecology at Beaumont Health System.
1. Luo S et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2020 Mar 20. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2020.03.043.
2. Lechien JR et al. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2020 Apr 6. doi: 10.1007/s00405-020-05965-1.
3. Breslin N et al. Am J Obstet Gynecol MFM. 2020 Apr 9. doi: 10.1016/j.ajogmf.2020.100118.
4. Zaigham M, Andersson O. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2020 Apr 7. doi: 10.1111/aogs.13867.
5. Di Mascio D et al. Am J Obstet Gynecol MFM. 2020 Mar 25. doi: 10.1016/j.ajogmf.2020.100107.
6. Ital J. Pediatr 2020;46(1) doi: 10.1186/s13052-020-0820-x.
7. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2020;149(2):130-6.
*This article was updated 5/6/2020.