Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) information for patients, visitors and medical professionals.

FAQ about pregnancy and COVID-19

Wellness | April 3, 2020
Pregnancy FAQ during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Learn how to keep yourself and your baby-to-be safe during COVID-19.

If you or a loved one is due to deliver a baby before fall 2020, you may have questions about the potential impact of COVID-19 on your delivery plans. Here are some common questions and answers about pregnancy, delivery and staying healthy and safe.

What is the risk to pregnant women of getting COVID-19? Is it easier for pregnant women to become ill with the disease?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it's not currently clear whether pregnant women have a higher chance of getting sick from COVID-19 than the general public, or whether they are more likely to contract a serious illness as a result.

However, pregnancy does change a pregnant woman's immune system in ways that could increase the susceptibility to some infections like COVID-19.

With viruses from the same family as COVID-19, and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, women have had a higher risk (than the general population) of developing severe illness.

A February report issued by the World Health Organization found that pregnant women "do not appear to be at higher risk of severe disease." No maternal deaths have been reported so far, according to a literature review published in the journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology that included data from 32 women in China.

How can pregnant women protect themselves from getting COVID-19?

Right now, moms-to-be should follow the same set of recommendations set by public health officials. These include:

  • Avoid contact with people who are ill or traveled to certain countries.
  • Avoid unnecessary travel and gatherings.
  • Cover your cough (using your elbow is a good technique).
  • Frequent and thorough handwashing using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Social distancing.

Learn tips from the CDC on how you can help prevent COVID-19.

Are COVID-19 symptoms different among pregnant women?

There are no indications yet that COVID-19 symptoms differ during pregnancy or that pregnant women are at an increased risk of contracting the new coronavirus. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • Coughing.
  • Fever.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Nausea and gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea.

How might the new coronavirus affect my pregnancy?

Because COVID-19 is still so new, there's not a lot of data yet. We do know that women with other coronavirus infections did NOT have higher rates of miscarriage or stillbirth than the general population.

However, other respiratory viral infections during pregnancy, such as flu, have been associated with problems like low birth weight and preterm birth. Also, having a high fever early in pregnancy may increase the risk of certain birth defects.

We do not know at this time if COVID-19 would cause problems during pregnancy or affect the health of the baby after birth.

Learn more about the effects of COVID-19 and pregnancy.

Do doctors recommend different treatments for pregnant women compared with other COVID-19 patients?

The short answer is no, says the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in recent guidance.

Recommendations may be slightly different depending on the country, in part, because doctors and health officials are still gathering data about how the virus affects pregnancy. Testing also varies, though some hospitals say they are prioritizing testing symptomatic pregnant women.

Are infected pregnant women more likely to miscarry or go into labor early?

It is unclear. Data from SARS cases, which is a similar virus, suggests an increased chance of miscarriage. But doctors say the data are limited and miscarriage is relatively common, which makes it hard to know whether a viral infection or another stressor caused it. According to a recent review published in the journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology, nearly half of the women delivered preterm, often by C-section. But again, the causes aren't clear.

If a pregnant woman has COVID-19 during pregnancy, will it hurt the baby?

At this time it's unknown what, if any, risk is posed to infants of a pregnant woman who has COVID-19.

Among the few case studies of infants born to mothers with COVID-19 published in peer-reviewed literature, none of the infants tested positive for the virus. And there have been no reports of mother-to-baby transmission for other coronaviruses (MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV). Also, there was no virus detected in samples of amniotic fluid or breast milk.

But there have been a few reports of newborns as young as a few days old with infection, suggesting that a mother can transmit the infection to her infant through close contact after delivery.

Is it safe for me to deliver at a hospital where there have been COVID-19 cases?

We understand that COVID-19 is a very scary virus. The good news is that hospitals are taking many precautions to keep patients and healthcare providers safe.

Hospitals are also putting stricter visiting policies into place and ensuring that labor, delivery and recovery rooms maintain the highest levels of infection control. This should make it possible for you to deliver at the hospital without putting you or your baby at risk. 

Will I be allowed to have a support person with me during delivery?

While many hospitals are limiting visitors, most are still allowing a support person during delivery. However, as the pandemic changes, that too may change.

What plans should I make in case the hospital system is overwhelmed when my baby is due?

Talk with your doctor or midwife once you're at least 34 weeks pregnant to consider your options.

Will my birth plan be changed if I’m positive for COVID-19?

A pregnant woman who is positive will be placed in her own room with the door closed to keep the virus from spreading in the hospital. Staff will also be dressed in additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

It is possible that baby will be given his or her own room with the option of having a healthy family member or friend providing care, as recommended by the CDC. Many families also make the difficult decision to keep both parents away from baby because of the high likelihood that both are infected, also a recommended practice.

In case of separation, the mother should continue to express her breast milk, which would then be given to the infant by a healthy adult. The decision should be made in consultation with the mother. If a mom chooses to breastfeed, she should wear a mask to minimize the risk of exposure to the baby.

It is important to remember that both mom and baby will still receive the same high-level of care that is given to women who are not positive for COVID-19.

How can I keep from passing COVID-19 to my baby or my loved ones at the hospital and at home?

As of March 25, 2020, the CDC states that a person should assume they have the virus until they have been symptom-free (no fever, cough or difficulty breathing, or need for medication) for three days AND at least seven days have passed since the first symptoms appeared.

Other guidelines to follow include:

  • Wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer frequently.
  • Try to stay in a different room from your loved ones at home as much as possible.
  • Continue expressing or pumping milk to be bottle-fed.
  • Have a healthy family member or friend do the care and feeding of your baby.
  • Talk to your obstetrician or midwife or your baby’s pediatrician for advice if you have and questions about starting breastfeeding when you are healthy.

What should I do once I'm discharged home with my baby?

The outbreak of COVID-19 means people are being required to practice social distancing. Some states have also enacted 'stay at home' orders. This means you may not be allowed to have as many in-person visitors, but you can still stay connected through social media apps, video chat, text messages and other digital means. It is especially important that grandma and grandpa and anyone with underlying health conditions avoid in-person visits as they are considered at high risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms. If you're struggling with postpartum depression, be sure to talk with your doctor.

Related Content