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COVID-19 and pregnancy: What expecting moms need to know

Pregnant woman blowing nose into tissue while sick at home

Last update: 12/14/2020

It’s hard to go a day without learning news about COVID-19. But what you may not have heard a lot about is how COVID-19 affects pregnant or new moms.

The Mother Baby Center is answering your questions about COVID-19 and pregnancy.

COVID-19 and pregnancy

What do COVID-19 symptoms look like in pregnant women?

Pregnant women are more likely to experience respiratory complications than the general population. Other symptoms of COVID-19 can include:

  • Loss of taste and/or smell.
  • Fatigue.
  • Muscle or body aches.
  • Headaches.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, please seek emergency care:

  • Confusion.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Chest pain or pressure.
  • Inability to stay awake or wake up.
  • Bluish lips or face.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can easily be confused with the common cold, the flu, or even typical pregnancy discomforts. Pay close attention to your body, and always mention your symptoms to your provider so they can give you guidance on when to seek testing or treatment.

Are pregnant women at risk for COVID-19?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers pregnant women at “increased risk” for COVID-19. This means that pregnant women have a slightly higher risk for hospitalization or intensive care unit (ICU) admission if they get COVID-19. This is similar to how pregnant women experience more severe symptoms with influenza. Additionally, pregnant women who are obese or have gestational diabetes may be at a higher risk for severe illness than women with similar illnesses who are not pregnant.

Pregnant women typically experience more intense symptoms with influenza. It seems this is the same for COVID-19 as well. While pregnant women may need to be hospitalized for their symptoms, there is not an increased risk of death.

How can I prevent COVID-19 if I am pregnant?

While you may feel extra vulnerable because you’re pregnant, it’s important you follow the same preventative measures as everyone else:

  • Wear a mask, and make sure to wash reusable masks regularly.
  • Wash your hands often with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Clean surfaces in your home with usual household cleaners and disinfectants.
  • Try to stand 6 feet away from others, do not shake hands and avoid crowds.
  • Cover your sneezes or coughs, and throw your tissues in the trash as soon as possible.

Is it safe to go to prenatal appointments?

Yes! It is safe to go to prenatal appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Protocols like masking, social distancing, hand hygiene and surface disinfecting have kept clinics very safe.

Some of your prenatal appointments may be available through virtual care. Talk with your provider to see if virtual care is a good option for you.

Can I access prenatal care if I have tested positive for COVID-19?

There are many options for prenatal care during the pandemic. If you have tested positive for COVID-19, virtual care can be a great choice if you are still experiencing symptoms. We recommend that you quarantine for 10 days following your last symptoms before seeking in-person care.

However, if you experience concerning symptoms regarding your pregnancy, such as a decrease in your baby’s movement, early contractions, bleeding or pre-eclampsia, care will not be delayed. Hospitals and clinics can make accommodations for in-person care—even if you have COVID-19.

COVID-19 and newborns

Will my baby be okay if I get COVID-19?

Because this is a new virus, there is not a lot of research on how COVID-19 might affect an unborn baby. There is no evidence yet that COVID-19 itself causes birth defects, but it is too early to tell.

What we do know is that high fevers during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the risk of certain birth defects according to the CDC. Catching other viral respiratory infections, like the flu, during pregnancy is linked to low birth weight and preterm labor.

Can I give COVID-19 to my baby after birth?

COVID-19 can be spread through close person-to-person contact, so if you have tested positive for COVID-19, there is a chance that you could give COVID-19 to your baby.

If you have tested positive, always wear a face covering and wash your hands when holding or feeding your baby. Always wipe surfaces, like bottles, down after you use them to prevent spreading the virus to others in your household.

You are considered at low risk of transmitting COVID-19 to your baby if the following criteria are met:

  • It has been at least 10 days since your symptoms started, or 20 days if your symptoms were severe.
  • Your symptoms have improved.
  • 24 hours have passed since your last fever.

Can I breastfeed my newborn, infant or toddler if I have COVID-19? ​

There is still limited information about mother’s giving COVID-19 to their babies, infants and toddlers – whether that’s in the womb or through breastfeeding. You can breastfeed your baby if you have COVID-19, but we recommend you take some extra precautions to keep your baby safe.

Here’s tips to safely breastfeed your baby:

  • Wear face mask.
  • Wash hands when holding or feeding baby.
  • Wipe surfaces down before and after feeding your baby.

You are considered low risk of transmitting COVID if:

  • It has been at least 10 days since your symptoms started, or 20 days if your symptoms were severe.
  • Your symptoms have improved.
  • 24 hours have passed since your last fever.

If you decide that you do not want to breastfeed until after you recover from COVID-19, you should still pump in order to maintain supply.

COVID-19 and mental health

How can I maintain my mental health during the pandemic?

Pregnancy is often a very exciting time for families, but can also be stressful and anxiety-provoking. The physical and mental changes happening can be overwhelming. All of these big changes can worsen existing mental health concerns or bring on new mental health challenges.

The pandemic can be scary—but you are not alone. Do your best to take care of your mind and your body. Make time to enjoy your hobbies and exercise, and limit your phone screen time to avoid added stress from the 24-hour news cycle.

Talk to your provider if you are having worsening symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Can I spend time with friends during the pandemic?

COVID-19 has interrupted most of our social interactions, but it’s important to not to isolate yourself—even if you are pregnant. Simply, try to limit contact with others! Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.

When you do spend time with others, social distance when you can and keep gatherings small. Many people are forming COVID “pods,” or a small group of people who only socialize within the group until the pandemic is under control. Try to avoid large gatherings.

For the latest information on COVID-19, please visit the CDC website.