Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): What You Need to Know About Its Impact on Moms and Babies
Updated April 8, 2020
What Everyone Needs to Know
Coronavirus, also called COVID-19, is a respiratory disease that has spread to the U.S. and around the world. COVID-19 is a global pandemic, as it infects and can spread easily between people.
How it spreads:
The virus spreads mainly from person-to-person through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It may also spread when people touch a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes. According to the CDC, many people without symptoms are spreading the virus. Some people are “asymptomatic,” meaning they have the virus but don’t have symptoms. Others are “pre-symptomatic,” which means they have the virus but show no symptoms for a while, but later they will have symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.
Some countries and some communities in the U.S. have “community spread.” This means that some people in these locations have been infected and it is not known how or where they were exposed. The latest information on the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. can be found here.
The risk of getting COVID-19 for Americans increases for those who:
Live in places where there is ongoing community spread.
Have close contacts with people with COVID-19.
Traveled to places where community spread is happening.
Health care providers caring for patients with COVID-19.
The risk of getting very sick is higher for:
People with serious health conditions like heart disease, asthma and diabetes.
Mild symptoms to a severe illness can appear within 2-14 days of being infected. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
If you think you may have COVID-19, call your health care provider and they can help you be tested. If they ask you to come into the office, wear a facemask before you enter the facility.
What Pregnant Women and Families with Children Need to Know
At this time, we have limited pregnancy-specific data about COVID-19. More studies are being published and we are learning more each day. The available information at this moment suggests pregnant women may have the same risk as other non-pregnant adults. Public health and medical groups are closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and providing regular updates.
Things to Keep in Mind:
We still don’t know if pregnant women have a higher chance of getting COVID-19 compared to the rest of the general population or if they are more likely to get seriously ill.
We do know that during pregnancy, your immune system is less quick to respond to illness so you’re more likely to become sick.
High fevers during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the risk of certain birth defects.
Miscarriage and stillbirth have been observed with other coronaviruses and infections (e.g. flu) during pregnancy.
Based on limited reports, adverse outcomes like preterm birth have been reported among babies born to moms with COVID-19, but it’s not clear if that’s related to maternal infection.
As of now it’s not clear if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can transmit the virus to her baby. Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, data had suggested that babies born to moms with the virus did not test positive for COVID-19. Recent data published in the Journal of American Medical Association suggest that transition during pregnancy may be possible. As more studies get published, we will update this information as we learn more.
So far, the COVID-19 virus has not been found in the breast milk of women with COVID-19. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says, if you have COVID-19 it’s best to express your milk and a healthy caregiver can feed your breast milk to your baby. A mom with COVID-19 who request direct breastfeeding needs to:
Use a cloth (or facemask—if available) to cover her face and nose
Wash her hands and breast thoroughly before and after touching her baby
Constantly clean surfaces she touches
Recent data shows that compared to adults, babies and children generally have less severe COVID-19 symptoms. However, among babies and children, babies less than one year old are at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.
Things to do:
Practice social distancing, which means being separated from another person by at least 6 feet. Ask your health care provider for virtual or off-hour visits for your prenatal visits, ultrasound and lab testing.
Call your hospital or birth center and ask them about any restrictions they have on the number of support persons (e.g. doula, spouses, family) allowed in the room during labor and delivery. Update your Birth Plan by using our template here.
If you are in labor and you have, or think may have COVID-19, call the hospital before you go so the staff can properly prepare and protect your baby and others from being infected.
If you have or may have COVID-19, your health care provider may recommend that you stay in a separate room from your newborn until the risk of spreading the infection is over. If you and your baby are not separated, you can reduce the chances of your baby being infected by washing your hands thoroughly and wearing a facemask before each feeding.
If you are temporarily separated from your newborn and you want to breastfeed, you can:
Use a breast pump to express your breast milk. Wash your hands thoroughly before using the pump. A healthy caregiver can feed the breast milk to your baby.
Breastfeed from your breast. Wash your hands thoroughly and put on a facemask before each feeding your baby.
Take care of yourself. We are living through a public health emergency that is creating a lot of stress, fear and anxiety in families across the U.S. For new moms, caring for a new baby while feeling sore, tired and stressed can be a lot to handle. But there are several things you can do to care for yourself:
Take periodic breaks from watching or listening to the pandemic news stories or going on social media to help reduce anxiety.
Keep in touch with people you care about and who care about you. Tell your partner, family and friends how you’re feeling.
While COVID-19 has changed the way daily life looks for us, there are things you can do to help keep a routine. Every day, take a shower, eat healthy foods and regular meals, drink plenty of water and get a good night’s sleep.
Know you are not alone. Staying connected with friends and family in a virtual way is important. Reach out, share your story and talk to other expecting and new moms online. Visit share.marchofdimes.org to learn more.
What Families with a Baby in the NICU Need to Know
Each hospital has specific rules about who and how many people can be in the NICU at one time. Ask the NICU staff about these rules and make sure you follow them.
Practice social distancing any time you are outside of the NICU and only leave your home for essential needs. Inside the hospital, practice social distancing with other adults as much as possible.
Take care of yourself. COVID-19 is a public health emergency that is creating a lot of stress, fear and anxiety in families across the U.S. The stress of having a baby in the NICU may be increased by the public health emergency and possible restrictions on being with your baby. But there are several things you can do to care for yourself:
Take breaks from watching or listening to the news stories or going on social media to help reduce anxiety.
Keep in touch with people you care about and who care about you. Tell your partner, family and friends how you’re feeling.
While COVID-19 has changed the way daily life looks for us, you can still keep a routine. Every day, take a shower, eat healthy foods and regular meals, drink plenty of water and get a good night’s sleep.
Know you’re not alone. Reach out, share your story and talk to other NICU families online. Click here to learn more.
Bond with your baby. Some of the most important ways you can begin to bond with your baby are holding them, doing kangaroo care and feeding them. Other ways of bonding include singing, talking or reading softly and gently touching your baby. Ask your NICU staff about the best way to bond with your baby right now.
If you have or may have COVID-19, you may not be able to be with your baby. Temporary separation may be needed to avoid getting your baby sick. Call them and ask about what rules they have to protect your baby from getting COVID-19. If you and your baby are able to be together, wash your hands thoroughly and wear a facemask before and while spending time with your baby to reduce the chances of getting your baby infected. If you aren’t able to be in the NICU ask the NICU staff about ways to connect with your baby during this time.
If you are temporarily separated from your baby and you want to breastfeed, you can express breast milk for your baby. Talk with your NICU about any rules you need to follow. If you are able to provide breast milk you can:
Use a breast pump to express your breast milk. Wash your hands thoroughly before touching the pump and bottle parts, and clean all parts after each use. A healthy caregiver can feed the breast milk to your baby.
Help your older children cope. You may wonder how you’re going to help your children cope when you’re having trouble coping yourself. You may also wonder how you will find time for your other children when your baby needs you, too. There are a lot of things you can do to help your older children:
Be honest with them. Your older children may have a lot of questions but may not know how to ask them. Tell them what’s going on with you and with their baby brother or sister in words they can understand.
Calm your children’s worries. Some children are scared that their parents will love them less now that the new baby is here. Tell your children that you love them very much and describe what makes them special. If they’re old enough, you can talk with them about COVID-19 and how it’s affecting your family’s routine.
Create an activity that will help them feel part of their sibling’s care. Below are some activities your children can do at home to help care for the baby while he’s in the NICU. Ask your NICU staff before bringing any items into the NICU:
Color pictures to put up near the baby’s bed.
Pick a favorite photo of themselves or the family to have near the baby’s bed.
Put together a photo album of pictures of the baby.
Create a storybook about the birth of their baby brother or sister.
Help get the nursery ready for when the baby comes home.
What Everyone can do to Prevent Infection
At this time, there’s no vaccine for COVID-19, but there are ways to protect yourself and your family from exposure to the virus.
Stay up-to-date on vaccinations, including the flu vaccine.
If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, stay at home as much as you can or keep at least 6 feet distance from others. This is also called social distancing. Also, stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into your arm. Throw used tissues in the trash.
Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
Clean and disinfect objects you touch regularly and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. Use hot, soapy water or a dishwasher to wash dishes and utensils.
When around others, use a cloth face cover or a facemask to protect your nose and mouth. Everyone needs to wear a face covering, except babies under 2 years old or anyone who has trouble breathing.
Talk to your health care provider about your health and risk of COVID-19.
What to do If you become Infected with COVID-19
If you have a fever or cough, you may have COVID-19. Call your health care provider and ask what you should do. You may also want to review the CDC’s self-checker tool here.
Monitor your symptoms. If you get any of the followings signs, get medical care right away:
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Constant pain or pressure in the chest
If you start feeling confused
If you start feeling confused
Bluish lips or face
You don’t respond
According to the CDC, most people have mild illness and may be able to recover at home. If you have mild symptoms follow these recommendations to care for yourself and avoid spreading the disease to others:
Stay home except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas, except if you are seeking medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas and avoid using public transportation or taxis (including ride-shares).
Call a medical facility before you show up. Be sure to tell the staff that you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the facility to take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed. Put on a facemask before you enter the facility.
Stay separate from others in your home. Stay in a specific room and away from other people and pets you live with. Use a separate bathroom, if possible.
Wear a cloth facemask to cover your nose and mouth or a facemask when you are around other people, even at home. CDC says you may use a scarf or a bandana to cover your nose and mouth if a facemask is not available.
Wear a facemask when you are around other people. If available, wear a facemask when you are around people and before entering a medical facility or provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask, people who have contact with you should wear one. CDC recommends using a scarf or a bandana if a facemask is not available.
Clean your hands often. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Always wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food. Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into your arm. Throw used tissues in the trash. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, right after. You also can use alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol. Use enough hand sanitizer so that it takes at least 20 seconds for your hands to dry.
Don’t share personal household items. Use hot, soapy water or a dishwasher to wash your dishes and utensils. Don’t share towels or bedding with other people or pets in your home. After using these items wash them thoroughly.
Clean and disinfect objects in your isolation area every day. This includes areas you frequently touch and in the bathroom you use. Your caregiver should clean other parts of the house outside of your isolation area. These include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables. Use a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. See CDC’s complete disinfection guide for more information.
Find the latest information about COVID-19:
Learn more about the disease and advice for pregnant women and families on our blog at newsmomsneed.org.
Stay up-to-date on upcoming events at marchforbabies.org or by calling us at 888-663-4637.
March of Dimes follows the COVID-19 guidelines and recommendations from the CDC. You can view real-time updates on the disease, guidance for pregnant women and travel advisories at here.
Mom and Baby COVID-19 Intervention and Support Fund
March of Dimes established the Mom and Baby COVID-19 Intervention and Support Fund to address the urgent need for research, advocacy and education to protect moms, babies and families from COVID-19 and the unknown future effects of the virus.
Learn more about how you can support The Fund.