Pregnant women are being urged to stay away from others due to the coronavirus, according to new advice.
They are being advised to minimise social contact for up to 12 weeks from this weekend.
The UK government’s chief medical adviser, Prof Chris Whitty, said limited evidence suggested there were currently no known coronavirus-related complications in pregnancy.
But he added the UK was still “very early in what we know about this”.
Pregnant women join other at-risk groups including the over-70s and younger people with underlying conditions – roughly equivalent to those offered the annual flu jab by their GP – in being asked to stay at home.
He said that, for many infectious diseases, “there is a small but appreciable additional risk” and as this was a new virus there was still not enough evidence for people in early stages of pregnancy.
“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 explained.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced sweeping new measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus in the UK on Monday – but stopped short of forcing schools to close.
It has led some pregnant mothers to question how they can keep a distance from others.
What is the advice for pregnant women?
The government has issued five points that people in at-risk groups such as the over-70s, those with underlying conditions, and pregnant women should follow “as much as you can”:
- Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus. These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough;
- Avoid non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times to avoid rush hour, when possible; Work from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this
- Avoid large gatherings, and gatherings in smaller public spaces such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants, theatres, bars, clubs
- Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media
- Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services
Dr Punam Krishan, a GP from Glasgow, told BBC Breakfast she did not understand how it would be possible for a pregnant mother like her to stay away from her six-year-old son and do the school run.
She said: “Many pregnant women across the globe have got other children.
“So at the moment, whilst I get the logic of why schools are not closed – my husband also works in the NHS – at the same time, how do I socially distance myself while I have to drop off my son at school.
“My elderly parents are no longer my support system – it’s really scary.”
In newly released guidance, the government advises pregnant women “to significantly limit your face-to-face interaction with friends and family if possible”.
The government has stopped short of ordering people to follow these new guidelines and is for the moment strongly encouraging them to follow it as “stringently” as they can.
If contact with other people is essential, people should remain 2m (6ft) apart.
The BBC has asked the Department of Health how pregnant mothers can keep their hospital appointments for things like antenatal scans and the school run under the new guidelines.
The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, Royal College of Midwives, and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said their joint guidance for pregnant women would be updated to reflect the government’s announcement.