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Common virus preventive steps advised for moms-to-be, as only few cases reported in Japan

Japan's "maternity mark" used to indicate that the wearer is pregnant is seen in this file photo.

TOKYO -- Japan's ob-gyn society is calling on pregnant women to make sure they carry out "common preventive measures" for the new coronavirus, such as washing hands and avoiding crowded places, as not much information is available about the effects of the virus on moms-to-be.

During a House of Councillors Budget Committee meeting on March 26, Wakako Yada of the opposition Democratic Party for the People pointed out that there was little information available about COVID-19 for pregnant women and requested the government to respond to the situation. According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, there have been no reports on expectant mothers developing severe symptoms after contracting the virus, but the number of cases among pregnant women has been very small to begin with.

Yada raised questions over the potential effects of COVID-19 on expectant mothers and fetuses during the March 26 session. Hanako Jimi, parliamentary vice-minister of health, labor and welfare, replied, "At the moment, there have been no reports of pregnant women having a particularly high chance of developing severe symptoms or a high fatality rate." Regarding the potential effects on fetuses, she added, "It's been reported that likelihood of an infection causing miscarriages or premature births during early pregnancy or the second trimester is low."

Japanese government guidelines state that pregnant women should call its coronavirus hotline "when symptoms of a cold or a 37.5-degrees-plus-Celsius fever continue for at least two days."

A report published on the Japan Society for Infectious Diseases in Obstetrics and Gynecology (JSIDOG)'s website current as of March 17 also says the chances of miscarriages or premature births are "not high" even if a pregnant woman contracts the coronavirus. It also states that at the moment there have been no reports of fetal anomalies caused by the virus. The report says worrying too much about COVID-19 is "unnecessary" as the overall case fatality rate is lower than SARS or MERS.

However, the ob-gyn society points out that, generally speaking, when pregnant women develop pneumonia they are more prone to experience vascular congestion due to suppressed ventilation caused by the elevation of the diaphragm, possibly causing them to show severe symptoms. During SARS and MERS outbreaks, in some cases expectant mothers in the early stages of pregnancy are reported to have experienced miscarriages, while some in their second to third trimesters are said to have had premature births or the fetuses developed defects.

The JSIDOG emphasizes that it's "crucial for pregnant women not to contract the virus." The Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology asks them to "not be bothered by unconfirmed information" and to refer to reports provided by JSIDOG and other experts.

(Japanese original by Daisuke Nohara, Political News Department)

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