Q: I’m pregnant. Am I at greater risk of coronavirus?
Dr. Stacy Ammerman, OB/GYN, Maui Lani Physicians & Surgeons: In the early weeks of the pandemic, doctors assumed pregnant women would be at greater risk from coronavirus. That’s because they’re typically more vulnerable to flu and other respiratory viruses. But now we are learning that does not appear to be the case. The limited data currently available do not indicate that pregnant women are at an increased risk of infection or severe morbidity compared with nonpregnant individuals in the general population.
While that’s good news, you should still take precautions. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about coronavirus, it’s that anyone can get severely sick and become hospitalized or need a ventilator. Obviously if you’re pregnant that’s the last thing we want to happen.
First and foremost, pregnant women should follow any stay-at-home guidelines. Avoid going out into the community if you don’t have to. Stay home, and have a family member run errands, or use a delivery service if it’s available. Wash your hands frequently, and wear a mask if you do go in public. Talk with your doctor about their office policies. While you will still need to come into the doctor’s office for some tests and appointments, some consultations might be moved to online appointments or telemedicine.
We are also strongly advising that pregnant women stop going to work and stay home starting at 36 to 37 weeks, to reduce your risk of being exposed to coronavirus before coming into the hospital for delivery. This will protect you and your baby, as well as hospital staff and the other women who are giving birth.
Finally, as much as you might want to celebrate, we recommend that you not bring family and friends into your house to meet the baby after it is born. For now, the safest way for baby to meet grandparents, aunts and uncles is from a distance or over video chat like FaceTime or Zoom.
If you have concerns about your health or your baby’s health during the coronavirus pandemic, talk with your doctor about what you should be doing to stay safe.
Q: Since the coronavirus pandemic started, I’m having trouble sleeping. What can I do?
Dr. Benjamin Thompson, Behavioral Health, Pacific Permanente Group: Please know, you are not alone.
Many who never struggled with insomnia before are surprisingly undergoing disruptions in their nightly rest. We live in a place filled with aloha and sunshine but are now stuck indoors. We are restless and impatient. Many on Maui agonize with thoughts of exposure to illness, financial hardship, relatives we love but cannot visit and general turmoil in the nation. Even as we expect decreased restrictions, we still linger in limbo. These constant emotional skirmishes cause anxiety. And guess what? Researchers have found anxiety can disrupt your sleep, and sleep problems cause anxiety. Meaning, sleep is the answer and the problem. And just like anxiety, sleep problems can impact how you function emotionally, mentally and physically. It’s worth it to help yourself get a better night’s sleep. Sleep can reduce stress, anxiety and depression, help you think better, improve your mood and reduce irritability, all of which can help improve family relationships when you’re in close quarters. Getting enough sleep also helps strengthen your immune system, which is important when you’re trying to stay healthy.
Some steps that can help you sleep better include:
• Establish a consistent routine — wake up and go to sleep at approximately the same time each day.
• Spend time outside in the natural light during the day.
• Have a bed time routine where you wind down and relax.
• Avoid your phone and screen time for about an hour before bed.
• Use your bed only for sleep and sex/intimacy.
• Avoid working on your computer, watching TV or doing other activities in your bedroom.
• Get some exercise and physical activity during the day.
• Avoid too much alcohol or caffeine, especially late in the day.
Finally, if your insomnia is severe or getting worse, call your doctor. And if you’re dealing with serious stress or anxiety, such as worries about health, family or money, consider talking with a counselor to get help.
While it’s common for people to have insomnia during a stressful time, help is available. By making a few lifestyle changes, it’s possible to improve your sleep — and your health.
* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealth.org/healthwise.