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Last update: 16 May 2020
Being pregnant is often filled with many emotions, but a pregnancy during the current outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) could mean that fear, anxiety and uncertainty around your health and your unborn baby’s health has crept in. Understandably, you may have a lot of questions, so to help you answer some of these we've put together the following guidance on pregnancy and COVID-19.
Before we start, you should note that all pregnant people, including those with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infections, have the right to high quality care before, during and after childbirth. This information is not intended to meet your specific individual healthcare requirements and this information is not a clinical diagnostic service. If you are concerned about your health or healthcare requirements we strongly recommend that you speak to your clinician or other healthcare professional, as appropriate.
I’m pregnant – am I at higher risk from COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a new virus and there is still a lot to learn about it. Research is currently underway on the impact of COVID-19 on pregnant people, so available data is limited, but currently there is no evidence to suggest pregnant people are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 or are at a higher risk of severe illness.
However, due to the changes in their body and immune system, it is known that pregnant people can be severely impacted by respiratory infections. It is therefore advised you take all the necessary precautions to protect yourself from COVID-19 and inform your healthcare provider if you experience possible symptoms such as a fever, cough and difficulty breathing.
A recent study conducted by The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists has found that pregnant people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds were more likely than other people to be admitted to hospital for coronavirus.
How can I protect myself against COVID-19?
It’s vital you take all recommended precautions recommended by your government and the World Health Organization to avoid COVID-19 infection. You can help protect yourself and others by:
- Social distancing – the fewer people you come into contact with, the less likely you will be exposed to COVID-19
- Avoiding crowded areas – if you do have to go into public areas remain at least two meters away from other people
- Avoiding public transport, where possible
- Working from home, where possible
- Washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water is not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used
- Avoiding touching your face, especially around the mouth, nose and eye area
- Taking care while sneezing or coughing. As COVID-19 is spread through respiratory drops, you should cover your nose and mouth by either coughing or sneezing into your bent elbow or into a tissue. Dispose of the tissue immediately.
Can I pass COVID-19 to my unborn baby?
We still do not know if a pregnant person with COVID-19 can pass it onto their fetus or newborn baby during pregnancy or delivery, but after birth a newborn is susceptible to person-to-person spread. To date, the virus has not been found in samples of amniotic fluid or breast milk.
Should I attend my antenatal and postnatal appointments?
Yes, it’s very important that you continue to receive antenatal and postnatal care. Contact your maternal healthcare provider and ask them for advice on how best to continue your routine appointments. Pregnant people may be advised to receive fewer face-to-face appointments with their midwife or doctor, with more contact by telephone or online. Let your healthcare provider know ahead of time if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in contact with someone with the virus.
Is it safe to give birth at a hospital?
Yes, most hospitals will have COVID-19 protocols in place for you to safely give birth. If you are unsure of the procedures that are in place, contact the hospital you are planning to give birth at. If you were planning on having a home birth, contact the hospital to ensure this service is still available.
It is important to maintain an open dialogue with your main healthcare provider around available birthing options to see what is the most appropriate for you.
Many hospitals have also limited the number of people who can attend the birth, so check with your hospital on what their individual procedure is.
Do I need to have a caesarean birth if I have suspected or confirmed COVID-19?
No. Caesareans are to only be performed when medically justified. The mode of birth should be discussed with you, taking into consideration preferences and any obstetric indications for intervention.
Will I be able to breastfeed my baby if I have suspected or confirmed coronavirus?
Yes, you can breastfeed your baby. To date, the virus has not been found in samples of breast milk. Breast milk provides protection against many illnesses and is the best source of nutrition for most infants. A discussion with your family and your maternity team on breastfeeding is advised on whether and how to start or continue breastfeeding.
When you or anyone else feeds your baby, the following precautions are recommended:
- Wash your hands before touching your baby, breast pump or bottles
- Avoid coughing or sneezing on your baby while feeding at the breast
- Wear a face mask while breastfeeding, if available
- Follow recommendations for pump cleaning after each use
- If you choose to express milk, consider asking someone who is well to feed your expressed breast milk to your baby.
Where can I find more information?
You can visit the World Health Organization to keep up-to-date on the latest information regarding pregnancy and COVID-19.
It’s also advised you keep in contact with your maternal health care provider and up-to-date with information and protocols of the hospital or maternity clinic you will be giving birth at.