SALT LAKE CITY — On the day the World Health Organization announced that the coronavirus was officially a pandemic, Layne Borgersen, 25, discovered she was pregnant. Usually, Borgersen would have waited a little while longer before telling friends and family (she’s in her first trimester) but she felt everyone needed to hear some positive news.

She’s still early enough in her pregnancy not to require regular doctors visits, and she isn’t worried about the prospect of delivering quite yet. 

Borgersen and her husband, Brent, who live in Lehi, Utah, are taking extra precautions though: she is limiting her time out, and as soon as he gets home he showers and throws all his clothes in the washing machine. 

Being pregnant for the first time, or even the second or third or fourth time, can be nerve-wracking enough, without having to worry about a global pandemic. 

Layne Borgersen poses for a photo with her husband, Brent, and daughter, Macey, who is 3. | Provided by Layne Borgersen

Pregnant women are currently considered a high-risk group, but there’s still little information about how the virus affects them, or guidelines that differ greatly from what the CDC is recommending for everyone. 

“We are emphasizing the same things that people have heard over and over again from the CDC: good hand hygiene, avoiding touching your face, mouth and eyes and social distancing,” Dr. Erin Clark, chief of the division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of Utah Hospital said. 

We don’t know if pregnant women are more susceptible to catching COVID-19, but we do know they’re at increased risk for other severe infections like influenza, because their immune systems are altered when they’re pregnant, Clark explained. 

There’s currently very little data available on how pregnant mothers are affected, or, how infants cope if infected after birth. 

Seven women that are currently pregnant spoke with the Deseret News about what advice they received, or did not receive, from their doctors, and many expressed frustration over the limited information available. 

There doesn’t currently appear to be evidence that women can transmit COVID-19 vertically— a medical term that means passing the virus through the placenta or breast milk, but the potential can’t yet be completely ruled out

If a mother is sick with COVID-19, she can transmit the virus to her child after birth, just as anyone in close proximity can. If a mother came into the hospital and doctors thought she had COVID-19, the best advice right now is to separate moms and babies for some period of time to reduce the risk of infecting the new baby, Clark said.

Laura Gonzales lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is 35 weeks into her second pregnancy. She’s due to go into her doctor’s office in a week and a half for an ultrasound but is nervous about being exposed to the virus. She hasn’t received any information on precautions specific to women that are pregnant, nor heard of any measures her hospital is taking to ensure her safety because of the pandemic.  She and her husband don’t want to risk going to the hospital and and getting sick before, during or after going into labor.

That’s why she’s started researching home births. 

“Assessing the risk-benefit ratio of hospital versus home birth is always a complicated game,” Clark said. “At this point we don’t know what that relative balance is with regard to exposures.”

The home environment is not necessarily exposure free. You’re still going to have a midwife, and maybe a doula or other professionals come into your home, Clark said.

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Some hospitals are trying to limit visits where ever possible. 

At University of Utah Hospital, they are trying to limit the number of times pregnant patients have to physically come in for appointments and switching them to virtual visits. While between 10-20% of pregnant patients already took advantage of the hospital’s telemedicine program, they are now working on getting 100% of patients signed up.

Amy Gordon lives in New York and is 32 weeks into her first pregnancy. Her due date is in May.

Gordon has gestational diabetes, and was going into the doctor’s office for blood tests. Now, she will take her own blood, upload the results, and speak with her doctor from home.

Her doctor told her to wear gloves and a mask to work, and practice social distancing. She laughs a little, “ I don’t think I used the term social distancing before a week ago, but it feels like a lifetime.” Now, it seems to creep into her daily conversation about 40 times a day. 

“I think I have good doctors and they’re trying their best, but we’re all still just figuring it out though.”

Many hospitals have also limited the number of people allowed in the waiting room to just one. That person also cannot have any signs of illness in order to be present in the delivery room. That means if soon-to-be mother’s planned on having a midwife and their partner present, they have to choose one or the other. Some hospitals in New York have banned any person — even spouses, from coming into the delivery room according to Vice.

Christopher and Karim Jones spend time with their newborn baby, Paloma, at home. | Photo by Katie Bennett

Paloma Ruth Jones was born on the day the largest earthquake in 28 years hit Utah and the global pandemic continued.

Her parents, Christopher and Karim Jones, had asked to be put on a list to induce labor the day before. They wanted to give birth earlier, and avoid having to go into the hospital at a later date when the outbreak could be even more severe. 

Their three other children did not come to the hospital, and would not meet their new sister for another few days when they returned home. The Jones parents have been teaching them to be extra careful about washing their hands and not touching their faces as they prepared to bring a new life into their self-contained home.

The day was not what either of them had envisioned, or planned for. “Everything you expected just goes out the window,” Karim Jones said. 

Christopher Jones’ parents were planning a trip from Texas to come and meet the new child, but their visit has been postponed indefinitely. There won’t be a flock of visitors. They plan to go home and continue self-isolating. 

“There were definitely some times where I felt disappointment or sadness, but what I kept coming back to is ‘we’re safe and we’re prepared,’” Karim Jones said.

For all the fears and uncertainty of bringing new life into the world, their experience was ultimately a positive one.

“I think the baby represents a glimmer of hope and light in kind of a dark and uncertain world,” Christopher Jones said.

Karim Jones chimed in, the sounds of Paloma’s soft cries coming in over the phone.

“We feel like she’s a little bit of good news that we can share.”