We still don't know a lot about the effect of the coronavirus—or the disease it causes, COVID-19—on pregnant women and their babies. But here's some information based on what health experts and recent studies can tell us.
Q. Do pregnant women have an increased risk for getting the coronavirus?
A. It doesn't appear that pregnancy and childbirth increase the risk for infection with the virus. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pregnant women are at an increased risk for severe complications from COVID-19.
Q. If a pregnant woman does get sick with COVID-19, will she pass it on to her baby?
A. Researchers have found a few cases where the coronavirus may have passed to a fetus during pregnancy, but this seems to be rare. When babies do get sick, it's also possible they got the virus during birth or through close contact with an infected person after birth, according to CDC.
Q. What can a woman with COVID-19 expect when she gives birth?
A. Women will probably be able to have a support person with them. That person would need to be screened for the coronavirus. The support person also would need to remain in the room for the entire delivery—no leaving and returning.
Q. What might happen after the baby is born?
A. If a woman with COVID-19 gives birth, her newborn should be tested for the virus. But regardless of the results, it is usually still possible for the mom and baby to stay together in the hospital. If the baby doesn't have the virus, mom and baby should stay 6 feet apart, other than when breastfeeding.
Q. How will COVID-19 affect breastfeeding?
A. Although the virus may be present in breast milk, it appears to be rare. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women with COVID-19 continue to breastfeed. Still, moms who are sick with COVID-19 may want to pump breast milk so that a healthy caregiver can feed it to the baby.
A mom who wants to breastfeed despite having COVID-19 needs to:
•Put on a face mask.
•Wash her hands and breast thoroughly before and after touching her baby.
•Clean surfaces after touching them.
Q. What happens when mom and baby go home?
A. After leaving the hospital, a mom with COVID-19 should stay 6 feet from her newborn until she is clear of infection. She can either continue to pump breast milk or feed the baby herself while using a face mask and maintaining good breast hygiene.
Healthcare providers will likely follow up frequently for at least two weeks after mom and baby go home.
Q. How can a pregnant woman avoid COVID-19?
A. Pregnant women should take steps to avoid infection and limit the spread of the virus. If you are pregnant, you should:
•Limit your interaction with other people, especially people who are sick.
•Stay at least 6 feet away from other people in public.
•Wear a cloth face mask in public.
•Cover your coughs and sneezes.
•Clean your hands well and often.
•Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
•Clean and disinfect surfaces you touch frequently.
For help making a birth plan during the COVID-19 pandemic, call your Watson Clinic OB-GYN
Additional sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; March of Dimes; UpToDate