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Pregnant in a pandemic: What are the risks?

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MCFARLAND (WKOW) -- Getting through this pandemic is hard enough as it is. Throw in a pregnancy and it gets even tougher to navigate.

A McFarland family is walking that road and doing their best to stay safe as they grow. Gayle and Tim Goers have a 2-year-old daughter named Emmy and always wanted a second child.

"We both grew up with siblings and really cherished those relationships," said Tim.

But when the pandemic hit, they were left with a lot of questions.

"I did reach out to my doctor and said 'We're interested and we're trying for our second child, but now we're kind of worried," said Gayle. "Our doctor really was honest at that point and said there just isn't a lot known."

They weighed the risks and moved forward and found out they were pregnant in May.

"We're thankful and we're just trying to stay as positive as we can and we're excited to meet this little one," said Gayle.

She recalls how this pregnancy is a lot different than the first. "This entire pregnancy for me will probably be in this isolation environment and that was a little sad."

"We've missed out on family gatherings, friend events, even that were socially distanced and masked," said Tim. "We just don't want to take that risk."

So how dangerous is COVID-19 for pregnant women and their babies?

"We know that pregnant women, even though the mortality rate doesn't seem to be higher than the general population, there's data that shows that they will get sicker, so they will need more mechanical ventilation and they will need a higher level of care," said Dr. J. Igor Iruretagoyena, Division Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at UnityPoint Health-Meriter and UW Health.

"We know of potentially a theoretical risk of transmission to the baby in utero, but the risk of that appears to be really, really, really low."

Dr. Iruretagoyena says so far, doctors haven't detected any fetal malformations if a pregnant woman contracts COVID-19, so health officials aren't discouraging couples from getting pregnant.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of November 19: 39,857 pregnant women have contracted COVID-19 in the U.S., 8,284 have been hospitalized, 292 admitted to the ICU and 53 have died.

The CDC also says in most cases, infants who get COVID-19 are asymptomatic, or have mild symptoms and recover.

At UnityPoint Health-Meriter, they've taken a number of steps to protect families. Moms get tested for COVID-19 before giving birth. If they test positive, the baby can still stay in their room, the mom will have to wear a mask, nursing is encouraged and only one support person can be in the room every 24 hours.

For the Goers, being pregnant in a pandemic has brought one silver lining, more quality family time at home.

"We don't take this experience for granted and we feel very fortunate that we're on this journey."

Amber Noggle

Anchor, 27 News at 5, 6 and 10

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