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Coronavirus and Pregnancy: Updated Recommendations and Guidelines

May 7th, 2020
Pregnant woman sitting on couch

The below information was provided by Catholic Health Services’ Interim Chairman of Maternal Fetal Medicine Baraa Allaf, MD, FACOG. This is part two of a Q&A with Dr. Allaf on Coronavirus and Pregnancy. You can find part one here. 

What should I do if I am pregnant and think I have COVID-19?

If you think you may have been exposed to the coronavirus, have a fever or cough or other symptom that worry you, call your OB-GYN or other health care professional for advice. 

If you have emergency warning signs, call 911 or go to the hospital right away. If you go to the hospital, try to call ahead to let them know you are coming so they can prepare. 

Emergency warning signs include the following:
-    Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath (more than what has been normal for you during a pregnancy)
-    Ongoing pain or pressure in the chest
-    Sudden confusion
-    Being unable to respond to others
-    Blue lips or face

What should I do if I am pregnant and diagnosed with COVID-19?

If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, follow the advice from the CDC and your OB-GYN or other health care professional. The current CDC advice for all people with COVID-19 includes the following:
-    Stay home except to get medical care. 
-    Speak with your health care team over the phone before going to their office. Get medical care immediately if you feel worse or think it’s an emergency. 
-    Separate yourself from other people in your home. 
-    Wear a face mask when you are around other people and when you go for medical care.

How might coronavirus affect my pregnancy? Could I transmit coronavirus to my baby during pregnancy or delivery?

Mother-to-child transmission of coronavirus during pregnancy is unlikely, but after birth a newborn is susceptible to person-to-person spread. 

A very small number of babies have tested positive for the virus shortly after birth. However, it’s unknown if these babies got the virus before or after birth. 

Additionally, your health care team may wear masks or take other steps to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. You and your health care team also may discuss having your newborn stay in a separate room to reduce the risk of infection for the baby. If your health care team thinks a temporary separation is important, you should make this decision together. Talk with them about your options, and make a decision that feels right to you.

Would it be safer to have a home birth?

We believe that the safest place for you to give birth is a hospital.

Even the healthiest pregnancies can have problems arise with little or no warning during labor and delivery. If there are emergency issues, a hospital setting can give you and your baby the best care with no delay. 

Is it safe to breastfeed if I have COVID-19?

Breast milk provides protection against many illnesses and is the best source of nutrition for most infants. You, along with your family and health care providers, should decide whether and how to start or continue breastfeeding.   

In limited studies, COVID-19 has not been detected in breast milk, however we do not know for sure whether mothers with COVID-19 can spread the virus via breast milk.  

If you are sick and choose to direct breastfeed, you should wear a facemask and wash your hands before each feeding. If you are sick and choose to express breast milk: 
-    A dedicated breast pump should be provided. 
-    Wash hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and before expressing breast milk. 
-    If possible, consider having someone who is not sick feed the expressed breast milk to the infant.  

How will COVID-19 affect prenatal and postpartum care visits?

As the virus spreads, it is a good idea to call your OB-GYN or other health care professional to ask how your visits may be changed. Some women may have fewer or more spaced out in-person visits. You also may talk more with your health care team over the phone or through an online video call. This is called telemedicine or telehealth. It is a good way for you to get the care you need while preventing the spread of disease. 

If you have a visit scheduled, your care team’s office may call you ahead of time. They may tell you about telemedicine or make sure you do not have symptoms of COVID-19 if you are going in to the office. You also can call them before your visits if you do not hear from them. 

For the latest information on COVID-19, visit the CHS coronavirus page.

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