COVID-19 and Pregnancy

BIDMC Contributor

NOVEMBER 10, 2020

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One glance at social media likely shows you how common it is to be dealing with added stress and feelings of anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. While mental health experts offer tips for dealing with this stress, you may have some additional questions about how to best protect your health and the health of your baby if you're pregnant.

BIDMC's Blair Wylie, MD, MPH, Director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and Chloe Zera, MD, MPH, Director of Obstetric Population Health, provide some information and advice for expecting parents below. If you have specific health concerns, please reach out to your obstetric provider.

Am I more likely to get COVID-19 during pregnancy?

People who are pregnant seem to contract COVID-19 at similar rates to people who are not pregnant. Due to normal changes in pregnancy, you may be more likely to become very sick from viral infections. So while most pregnant people with COVID-19 will not require hospitalization, there may be a slightly higher risk of serious illness.

Does COVID-19 cause pregnancy complications?

Pregnant patients who become very sick may have an increased risk of preterm delivery. However, most people who have COVID-19 in pregnancy do not have complications.

Is it safe for me to come to the hospital? I'm worried that I might get infected by being there.

Hospitals, including labor and delivery units, are taking extraordinary precautions to keep our patients and staff healthy. At BIDMC, this includes a limit on visitors to one healthy support person during childbirth. We ask that this support person remain with you the entire hospital stay.

Can my baby get COVID-19 if I have COVID-19 during pregnancy?

Almost all babies born to people with COVID-19 have not been infected. Those that are infected may have been exposed after birth.

If I have COVID-19, will I need a c-section?

Typically, no. For women who are only mildly symptomatic, there is no evidence that this would help you or your baby. Your doctor may recommend a c-section for another reason not related to COVID-19. It is possible that patients who become very sick with COVID-19 may not be able to tolerate a long labor.

What will happen if I have COVID-19 at the time of my delivery?

Your delivery team will wear special equipment (including a mask, eye protection, gown and gloves) to help protect against infection. You will meet with a neonatologist to discuss how best to care for your baby after birth. With appropriate precautions, the risk to a newborn is low and you do not need to be separated from your baby.

Can I breastfeed if I have COVID-19?

Yes. Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most infants. Limited studies have not found the virus in breast milk and your breast milk may provide antibodies to help protect your newborn. If you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19, precautions to avoid spreading the virus include washing hands before touching your baby and wearing a mask. If you choose to express breast milk with a manual or electric breast pump, wash your hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and clean the pump and parts after each use. Consider having someone who is not sick feed your baby the pumped milk.

Visit the CDC's website for the most up-to-date information about breastfeeding precautions for COVID-19.

What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?

If you have fever, cough, difficulty breathing, loss of your sense of smell, or exposure to someone with known COVID-19, you should call your OB/GYN's office. Your provider will tell you if you need to come to the hospital or stay at home. Most people will be able to stay at home and monitor their symptoms.

How can I stay healthy during pregnancy?

Staying healthy during pregnancy is the same as it is for everyone. The best ways to prevent infection are by wearing a mask or face covering, cleaning your hands often, and avoiding gatherings of people. Although it will not protect against COVID-19, getting the flu vaccine is more important than ever and safe to do in pregnancy.

Is there anything else I should be asking?

We recognize that delivering a baby right now may cause anxiety; this is a natural reflection of love for your growing family. We remain committed to keeping you and your family safe and to preserving the joy of childbirth.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

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