COVID-19: What it means for your pregnancy and future baby

KEY POINTS

  • Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) causes symptoms like fever, cough, shortness of breath, repeated shakes and chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and loss of smell and taste.

  • As of now, it’s not clear if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can transmit the virus to her baby or if the risk of preterm labor and premature birth increases with COVID-19.

  • Recent data shows that compared to adults, babies and children generally have less severe COVID-19 symptoms. Among babies and children, babies less than one year old are at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.

  • If you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and you are in labor, call the hospital or medical facility before you go.

What is COVID-19?

Coronavirus diseases 2019 (also called COVID-19) is a disease caused by a new coronavirus discovered on 2019. The symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of smell or taste

At this time, we have limited pregnancy-specific data about COVID-19. The available information at this moment suggests pregnant women may have the same risk as other non-pregnant adults.

If you are pregnant, are you at a higher risk of getting COVID-19?

We still don’t know:

  • If pregnant women have a higher chance of getting COVID-19 compared to the rest of the general population.If pregnant women are more likely to get seriously ill from COVID-19 than the rest of the population.

We do know:

  • During pregnancy, your immune system isn’t as quick to respond to illnesses as it was before pregnancy. Having a lowered immune system may make you more likely to get sick with viruses like coronavirus.
  • Illnesses like the flu and other viruses from the same family as COVID-19 have caused pregnant women to become very sick and some required hospitalization.

Protect yourself from getting COVID-19. Stay at home, as much as you can, wash your hands often and avoid contact with people who are sick.

Can you give COVID-19 to your baby during pregnancy?

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.

What complications can me or my baby have if I get COVID-19 during pregnancy?

According to the CDC:

  • Pregnant women can get sicker and require hospital care when they have certain other types of respiratory illnesses, like the flu and another coronavirus illness called severe acute respiratory syndrome (also called SARS).  
  • Pregnancy loss has been observed with other coronaviruses, like SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. We don’t know if COVID-19 can cause pregnancy loss.
  • It’s not certain if the risk of preterm labor and premature birth increases with COVID-19, like it does with the flu. Based on limited reports, there have been some premature births among moms with COVID-19. It is not clear if that is related to maternal infection.
  • If you have high fever during your pregnancy, the risk for certain birth defects can increase.
  • Based on other respiratory illnesses, like the flu and other coronaviruses, pregnant women may be at risk of getting severe illness and even death compared to the rest of the population.

Babies and children:

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. Most children with COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms. Serious problems in children with COVID-19 appear to be rare.

What should you do if you have COVID-19 and you are in labor?

Health care teams are working hard to make labor and delivery as safe as possible for moms and babies. If you are thinking of making changes to your birth plan, like delivering your baby at a different hospital or birth center, or are considering a home birth, discuss this with your provider.

If you are in labor and you think you have or if it’s confirmed that you have COVID-19, call the hospital or medical facility before you go. This way, the staff can take proper infection control precautions to protect your baby and other people from getting the infection.

If you have COVID-19, how can a medical facility protect your baby after birth?

CDC recommends that medical facilities consider having moms with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 stay in a separate room from their new baby after birth until the risk of spreading the infection is over. Your providers can talk to you about the risks and benefits of this decision. Providers, infection control specialists and public health experts can work together to determine when to end this temporary separation.
If you and your baby are not separated, you can reduce the chances of your baby getting infected by washing your hands thoroughly and wearing a facemask before touching your baby. Your providers may help with other precautions, like keeping a curtain between you and your baby.

Should you breastfeed your baby if you have COVID-19?

So far, the COVID-19 virus has not been found in the breast milk of women with COVID-19. Experts think that the infection spreads mainly through small liquid droplets from the nose or mouth when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says, if you have COVID-19 you may 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  

What can you do if you get 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.
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
  • Bluish lips or face
  • You don’t respond
  • Go to CDC.gov/COVID-19 for the most updated information about COVID-19.

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