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Advancing Women's Agency Podcast EP 6: COVID -19's Effect on Breastfeeding with Dr. Monica Pina

On June 10th, Aaroogya hosted our 6th podcast episode in partnership with Silicon Valley Global Health to interview Dr. Mónica Pina about breastfeeding and pregnancy norms during Covid-19 pandemic. As a Portugal native and specialist of Internal Medicine at the Egas Moniz State Hospital, Dr. Pina is a Breastfeeding Doctor, is involved in organizing the Regional European Meetings of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, and is recognized as a reference for Breastfeeding Medicine in Portugal.

The confusion caused by COVID around the world sparked a debate surrounding pregnancy and breast feeding procedures which was characterized by a fear that breast feeding could potentially transmit COVID from a COVID-positive mother to a child through breast milk. However, breastfeeding actually helps protect children from diseases including COVID. Thus, the new norm in healthcare is to keep the mother and child together, even if the mother is COVID-positive.

A test-positive mother can breastfeed a test-negative baby, Dr. Pina says, unless the mother is in critical condition, in which case she would be rendered incapable of breast feeding not because of the COVID virus, but because of her physically inept state. In cases where a mother tests positive with a less severe mode of COVID, Dr. Pina advises for the mother to 1) quarantine with her child and continue breast feeding, and 2) avoid over medicating. If a mother and child are separated during a child’s nursing phase, not only can the child’s immune system development be compromised, but the child may be even more at risk of contracting COVID when placed under the care of relatives who may also be affected. If a mother over-medicates, it is important to remember that the side effects of the ingested medicines may affect her ability to breastfeed.

While it has thus been found that breastfeeding has a positive impact on babies’ immune protection from COVID, pregnant women are slightly more susceptible to having a severe COVID reaction. Additionally, contracting COVID near delivery may cause a premature birth. Thus Dr. Pina advises those pregnant: do not overmedicate, keep breastfeeding, maintain a hygienic, sanitary living environment, check the CDC guidelines for how long one can safely use COVID prevention items, and do not forget that there are other diseases which are just as affecting as COVID.

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