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Q&A: Coronavirus and pregnancy

A pregnant woman in front of a crib.

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 may be 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?

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 is thought to occur 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 during labor and delivery. 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 if testing kits are available. If the baby also tests positive for the virus, mom and baby can still be together in the hospital. If the baby doesn't have the virus, mom and her birthing team can discuss whether separation is best. That might depend on:

  • How sick mom is.
  • Whether mom wants to breastfeed.
  • If mom is going to be able to stay separated from the baby once they go home.

If mom chooses to room-in with her newborn, baby and mom should stay 6 feet away from each other, other than when breastfeeding. 

Q. How will that separation 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.
  • Constantly clean surfaces she touches.

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 considered clear of infection. She can either continue to pump breast milk for a healthy caregiver to feed to the baby, or she can feed the baby herself while using a face mask and maintaining good hand and 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 the same steps as everyone else to avoid infection with the virus. To avoid COVID-19, you should:

  • Avoid people who are sick.
  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Clean your hands well and often.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other people.
  • Wear a face mask to cover your nose and mouth in public.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces you touch frequently.

For more information about the COVID-19 pandemic, visit our Coronavirus health topic center.

Reviewed 7/20/2020

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