Should Pregnant Women be Concerned About Enterovirus D68?

News about Enterovirus D68 is spreading like the virus – quickly and with increasing coverage. And all this talk of children being hospitalized for respiratory illness is scaring people.

Moms are calling me because they’re concerned and are wondering how this affects them. They want to know the best way to protect themselves and their children from this once rare virus that is on the upswing.

To find out more about how this virus affects pregnant women I asked Dr. Michella Switzer, OBGYN with MomDoc Midwives in San Tan Valley what concerns she has for her patients during this outbreak. She says her main worry is for women who already have respiratory illness who may come in contact with the virus.

Dr. Switzer is encouraging pregnant women who suffer with asthma not to ignore worsening asthma symptoms but to see their midwife or doctor if they are exposed to the virus.

“If you have asthma and you come down with the enterovirus you need to come in right away and get your asthma under control,” Dr. Switzer says.

Children and adults with chronic respiratory conditions are at greater risk for more severe symptoms and hospitalization due to Enterovirus D68, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus is spread through respiratory secretions and travels from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes or touches contaminated surfaces.

Enterovirus D68 is a rare strain of a common summer illness that is usually mild in nature. If you’ve had a summer cold there’s a good chance that it was caused by an enterovirus. Most pregnant women are likely to be exposed to the illness but won’t contract the disease if they are already immune. Women who have previously had the virus will be immune to it.

So what if a woman has never had enterovirus D68 and is exposed during pregnancy. What then?

If women do become infected they typically do not get sick or only have mild symptoms such as runny nose, cough or sneezing, and can have fever and body and muscle aches. This particular strain occurs less commonly and has been reported to cause mild to severe respiratory illness, especially in children.

The good news is that there is no evidence that pregnant women who are infected with enterovirus are at greater risk for miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth defects.

If a woman is infected shortly before she gives birth she can pass the virus to her baby. However, newborns usually have mild illness, and only rarely is severe illness seen in these babies. Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce infection with enterovirus in infants mostly through maternal antibodies found in breast milk.

To protect yourself from the spread of enterovirus:

  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands.
  • Avoid hugging and kissing others who have symptoms or who are sick.
  • Don’t share drinks, utensils, or food with people who are ill.
  • Regularly disinfect toys, doorknobs, and all frequently touched surfaces, especially if someone in the household is ill.

To boost your immune system try these healthy living tips:

  • Increase nutrition including lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Get enough sleep
  • Don’t smoke
  • Exercise most days

VBAC Success Story

A beautiful mama had a successful VBAC last week and I was privileged to be there with her. As I handed the baby to his mama she began to cry. Now there are a lot of fantastic things about being a midwife but seeing the joy on a woman’s face when she does something she wasn’t sure she could do, something really hard and then she rocks it – that is so, so sweet.

I love it when a mother weeps at the sight of her newborn baby. It reminds me of when I first wanted to be a midwife – when I became a mother.

Way, way back in the olden days, when I was just a young slip of a thing I went to a rural Canadian hospital to have my first baby. I had read a lot about natural childbirth and totally believed I had the whole thing figured out.

On the morning that the contractions started I jumped in the shower, curled my hair, put on my makeup and waited in all my glory for my husband to get home from work to take me to the hospital.

I fully believed that in a few hours I would be holding my newborn in my arms, hair still curled back into Farrah Fawcett waves, makeup glowing. But no.

The nurses weren’t very impressed with what they found when they checked my cervix and they wanted to send me home. We lived a town away, a good 20 minute drive, which looking back doesn’t seem that far, but on a cold autumn Canadian evening the nurse just didn’t have the heart to do it.

So I stayed at the hospital that night and the next night I was still there. My friend’s husband was the doctor and she told me later that after dinner she told him he had better go see me. Although I had been contracting for over 24 hours I wasn’t making much progress.

He took my husband into his office and pulled out some big, fat textbooks to look up statistics and bell curves and there was talk about cesarean delivery and such, an option that wasn’t available except by ambulance ride to Calgary.

Meanwhile I had a ride on a gurney to get an x-ray of my pelvis. Remember this was in the olden days, before routine ultrasound. I had already snuck a look at my prenatal chart and read that I had a roomy, bony pelvis and the x-ray concurred – lots of room for a baby.

As it turns out, getting up and rolling around on an x-ray machine is exactly the kind of movement needed to get a baby moving into a great position to be born. I had a few agonizing contractions on the way back to my labor room and when I got there I headed straight for the bathroom. I needed to go!

That’s when I had a light bulb over the head moment: I had read this in the childbirth books. Feeling like you need to poop means you are fully dilated and need to push.

I asked the incredulous nurse to check me and when she did she wheeled me straight into the delivery room where I pushed out my 8 pound baby boy in two pushes (that’s how I remember it anyway).

If I live to be 100 years old I’ll never forget the feelings I had when I became a mother. The exhilaration, the relief, the happiness was so gratifying after all the pain. I was the strongest, purest, motherliest of mothers that ever had a baby. My babe was the most beautiful, sweet, good baby the world had ever seen. I loved him so much I couldn’t stop staring at him. I put him to my breast and the deal was sealed into a package deal. I was a new person, a mother, so full of joy I couldn’t sleep. Literally. For the next 18 months. But that’s another story.