As the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus continues to rise, health and safety precautions in Australia and overseas are being updated daily in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

In the UK, new advice issued on March 17, is directing pregnant women to minimise social contact for up to 12 weeks, as of this weekend.

This advice puts pregnant women in the same at-risk groups of over-70s and those with underlying health conditions who are also being asked to self-isolate.

In the UK, pregnant women are being advised to minimise social contact for up to 12 weeks, as of this weekend.

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The UK government’s chief medical advisor, Professor Chris Whitty, says that while limited evidence suggests there are currently no known coronavirus-related complications in pregnancy, we are still “very early in what we know about this”.

“Infections and pregnancy are not a good combination in general and that is why we have taken the very precautionary measure while we try and find out more,” he said on March 15.

The new UK government guidelines ask pregnant women asked to practice social distancing and remain two metres away from other people if contact is necessary.

Under the revised guidelines, mothers-to-be are questioning how to attend their doctor’s appointments.

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All pregnant women are encouraged to get the flu vaccine as soon as it’s available.

While these guidelines have not yet been rolled out in Australia, the ABC’s Dr Norman Swan says pregnant women do need to exercise caution during this time.

“The answer is that there isn’t a lot of data yet on pregnant women. We don’t have any large studies telling you exactly what’s happening,” Dr Swan said on March 16.

“A small study of 18 women who were in the last trimester of pregnancy and then delivered in January-February, from memory, they didn’t get into strife,” he continued.

Addressing the possibility of premature delivery if a pregnant woman was to be diagnosed, Dr Swan said, “There’s maybe a little indication that you might be more at risk of a premature delivery or a bit of foetal distress, but it’s really unclear because they’re small numbers and you get foetal distress anyway.

“It’s going to take months to know what the effect of SARS CoV-2 is on pregnancy as women deliver, as the epidemic goes on.

Dr Norman Swan advises all pregnant women to get the flu vaccine when it becomes available.

“We know influenza is really not good if you’re pregnant,” he says.

“All pregnant women, if you’re not immunised against influenza, it doesn’t matter whether the new vaccine is in, get immunised now. Because all pregnant women should be immunised at any point in the year because influenza is bad.”

Dr Swan says pregnant women do need to be careful if they are out in public.

“On the precautionary principle, if you’re pregnant, you just have to look after yourself. Be super careful about large crowds, even small crowds, going to work, and that sort of thing.

“Because we just don’t know what the effect is going to be, and it’s going to be several months before we find out.”