To begin with, let’s address the most common question – can lactating mothers who are recovering from COVID-19 continue breastfeeding? For SARS-COV-2, the detection of Viral RNA in breastmilk from the infected mother appears to be uncommon. Moreover, the risk of transmission of COVID-19 via breastmilk has not been established. So, the risk of the newborn getting COVID-19 from the mother is low if she follows the safety protocols. Hence, lactating mothers recovering from COVID-19 can continue to breastfeed. The mothers should however maintain a distance of six feet between themselves and others, wear a mask at all times, practise hand hygiene and avoid coughing into her chest.
Early exclusive breastfeeding and kangaroo care (skin to skin contact of the baby with parents, especially the mother) promotes mother-infant proximity which is the most effective way of protecting the newborns. Breastfeeding is essential to optimise an infant’s health. Breastfeeding produces anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial responses, which protects the newborn from various infections and also enhances immunity by directly transferring antibodies from the mother.
Breastmilk has an irreplaceable nutritional value that helps to optimise healthy growth, brain development, intelligence and other developmental outcomes in a child. If the clinical condition of the mother warrants temporary separation from the infant, then the mother can give expressed milk to the infant. Expressing milk helps in establishing and maintaining a proper milk supply from the breast.
A check-up post-COVID recovery is essential to ensure the well-being of the mother and the baby.
Can Women Continue Breastfeeding Immediately After Vaccination?
Vaccination is not an indication to discontinue breastfeeding at any point. WHO recommends that mothers should continue to breastfeed after the vaccination as none of the current vaccines in use is excreted into breastmilk. There is mounting evidence that the breast milk of the vaccinated mother carries antibodies against the Novel Coronavirus. One recent study has detected IgA (Immunoglobulin A) and IgG (Immunoglobulin G) antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 in breastmilk till six weeks after the vaccination. It also found neutralising effects in the immune proteins suggesting protection for infants from the COVID-19 disease. Summing up, COVID-19 vaccines offer real benefits for protecting both mother and child.
Can Pregnant Women Take COVID-19 Vaccine?
Based on the recommendations of NTAGI ( National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation), vaccination has been approved for pregnant women with the condition that they are informed about the risk of exposure of COVID-19 along with risks and benefits associated with COVID-19 vaccines available in the country.
The intent is to weigh the risks versus benefits on an individual basis and offer the choice to the pregnant woman to make an informed decision about taking the vaccination provided there are no contraindications.
Experts are of the view that the benefits of vaccination to pregnant women outweigh the potential risks.
Without The Vaccine, Is There A Risk Of Getting COVID-19 Disease?
Pregnancy does not increase the risk of COVID-19 infection, but the current evidence suggests that pregnant women are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 as compared to non-pregnant women. Many pregnant women get a mild infection. More than 90 per cent recover without the need for hospitalisation but rapid deterioration may occur in a few. Symptomatic pregnant women appear to be at an increased risk of severe disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes including admission to the ICU, preterm births, pre-eclampsia like symptoms, caesarean sections and rarely death. This is consequent to the pregnant uterus pressing upon the diaphragm and compromising the woman’s ability to cope with low oxygen saturation levels thus endangering the lives of the mother as well as the foetus.
Pregnant women who are at increased risk of developing complications include those with pre-existing diseases, advanced maternal age and high body-mass index (BMI). The severity of COVID-19 infection is enhanced in those with pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, organ transplant recipients, chronic respiratory diseases like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), asthma, and others. Also, women on immunosuppressants, on dialysis and those who have congenital heart disease are at higher risk. So, pregnant women must take all precautions to protect themselves from acquiring COVID-19 infection and get vaccinated against it.
The vaccines are safe and protect pregnant women against disease and its severe complications. The COVID-19 vaccine can be taken anytime during the pregnancy. All women under 50 years including pregnant women can take the vaccine. The few contraindications for vaccination during pregnancy include the history of allergy to vaccines, food items or medications or an allergic reaction to a previous dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Temporary contraindications during pregnancy are:
- If diagnosed COVID-19 positive, the vaccination has to be deferred by 12 weeks from the infection or four to eight weeks from recovery;
- Active COVID-19 infection;
- COVID-19 infection treated by plasma therapy.
(Dr. Loveleena Nadir is a Senior Consultant – Obstetrics & Gynaecology at Fortis La femme.)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.