SARS-CoV-2 infections and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in pregnancy and breastfeeding: Results from an observational study in primary care in Belgium
Ceulemans M., Verbakel JY., Van Calsteren K., Eerdekens A., Allegaert K., Foulon V.
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. COVID-19 also affects pregnant and breastfeeding women. Hence, clinicians and policymakers require reliable evidence on COVID-19 epidemiology and consequences in this population. We aimed to assess the susceptibility of pregnant women to SARS-CoV-2 and women’s perceived impact of the pandemic on their breastfeeding practices, medical counseling and social support. We performed a cross-sectional study using an online survey in primary care in Belgium. Pregnant and breastfeeding women and women who breastfed in the preceding four weeks were eligible to participate. The survey was distributed through social media in April 2020. In total, 6470 women participated (i.e., 2647 pregnant and 3823 breastfeeding women). Overall, 0.3% of all respondents reported to have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, not indicating a higher susceptibility of pregnant women to contracting COVID-19. More than 90% refuted that the pandemic affected their breastfeeding practices, nor indicated that the coronavirus was responsible for breastfeeding cessation. Half of the women even considered giving longer breastmilk because of the coronavirus. In contrast, women’s medical counseling and social support were negatively affected by the lockdown. Women without previous breastfeeding experience and in the early postpartum period experienced a higher burden in terms of reduced medical counseling and support. In the future, more consideration and alternative supportive measures such as tele-visits by midwives or perinatal organizations are required for these women.