Coronavirus and Pregnant Women: Health Care Advice Amid the Pandemic

By Published On: February 23rd, 2021

Q: I’m pregnant with my first child and hear lots of differing information regarding COVID-19 and prenatal care. What changes can I expect from my prenatal appointments, and how will the virus impact my hospital labor and delivery?

During this unprecedented time, the goal of the CDC and all health care workers is to maximize safety for patients (especially pregnant women), their babies and families. There are many practices that have been adopted in order to reduce higher risk situations and provide care in the safest way in each trimester; these have been adjusted based on the evolving science and current COVID-19 infection rates in the community.

Most importantly, check with your midwife or health care provider’s office about their current processes for care throughout your pregnancy. Things you can expect are:

  • To wear a clean, well-fitting face mask over your mouth and nose for all office visits.

  • An office environment that allows for social distancing and avoidance of groups of patients and staff gathering together.
  • Hand sanitizer readily available.
  • Limitations on who may accompany you to your appointments. Ideally, your primary support person will be able to join you while following all safety guidelines.
  • Potential for some visits to be held virtually (in the absence of complications or a high risk pregnancy).
  • Education about the known science regarding available COVID-19 vaccines, as well as the risks of coronavirus for pregnant women, to support an informed decision.
  • Information about locations in your community to receive the immunization if you decide to become vaccinated.

Again, check with the hospital that you plan to deliver at to learn their current routines and restrictions. You can expect:

  • That you may have a COVID test before a planned admission (for induction or cesarean), or when you’re admitted for labor. This is especially important for those who are asymptomatic and will be in close contact with others.
  • To wear a face mask during your admission and while being transferred through the halls of the hospital. Your support person will also be expected to wear a mask and limit time spent in public areas of the facility.
  • The presence of at least one support person allowed for you during your labor and birth. Clarify with your birthing facility their specific rules for the number and type of visitors that you may have, when they will be allowed in, and if they may come and go (including doulas).
  • The opportunity for your well newborn to remain with you until you are discharged. If you are sick with coronavirus during your delivery, you should be allowed engage in breastfeeding with your newborn after handwashing and putting a mask on. You can also request a breast pump during longer stays in the hospital. (Remember that breast milk supports baby’s immune system and contains powerful antibodies to help protect her from getting sick.)
  • Expert nursing care for you and your newborn throughout your stay.

Q: How can I best protect my newborn during COVID-19? I’m nervous about handling visitors, necessary errands and what happens if I get sick myself.

  • Make a list of questions to ask at each appointment with your baby’s care provider. They will know the evolving science regarding coronavirus, and will have the most up-to-date recommendations for safe parenting at this time.
  • If you chose to forego vaccination during your pregnancy, arrange to be vaccinated following the birth of your baby for maximum protection of you and your newborn. Vaccination while lactating is safe.

  • The COVID restrictions that we’ve all become accustomed to and help to maximize our safety will help protect your newborn, too.

  • Wear a mask when in public, when with others that aren’t fully vaccinated or from your household, and if you aren’t feeling well.
  • Maintain social distance between your baby and those who don’t live in your household to avoid risk of exposure.
  • Wash and sanitize your hands as often as possible.
  • Until community immunity to novel coronavirus is achieved, limit visitors. Use a computer or phone for virtual visits with loved ones and friends. It’s okay to say no to those who may want to meet your baby right now. Know that we WILL return to normal one day, and time together will resume.

  • If possible, select a time for errands when another adult from your household can stay with your baby. If that isn’t an option, wear your mask over your mouth and nose, maintain social distancing, and limit the amount of time you spend in public to avoid increased risk. Maximize opportunities for delivery of goods, or curbside pickup. Always wash your hands after running any errands.
  • If you test positive or show COVID-19 symptoms, wear your mask when around your baby, and maintain distance whenever possible. Sleep when your baby sleeps, and drink lots of liquids. Allow fellow caregivers in your household to help you with care of your baby when you’re not feeling well. Let them change diapers, give a bath, or entertain your little one while you recuperate.

Although pregnancy, birth and parenting a newborn during a pandemic seems incredibly scary for women’s health, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization have had months to determine the safest practices to minimize spread of the virus, develop effective vaccines through clinical trials, and monitor the evolving scientific data surrounding the coronavirus and risk of severe illness. Following health care and public health recommendations will maximize safety for you and your newborn during an exciting time in your life!