One glance at social media likely shows you how common it is to be dealing with added stress and feelings of anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. While mental health experts offer tips for dealing with this stress, you may have some additional questions about how to best protect your health and the health of your baby if you’re pregnant.
Blair Wylie, MD, MPH, Director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and Chloe Zera, MD, MPH, Director of Obstetric Population Health at BIDMC, provide some information and advice for expecting parents below. If you have specific health concerns, please reach out to your obstetric provider.
Am I more likely to get COVID-19 during pregnancy?
There is very little information known about COVID-19 in pregnancy at this time, and we do not know yet whether pregnancy increases the risk for infection. Due to normal changes in pregnancy, pregnant patients may be more likely to become very sick from viral infections, but most people with COVID-19 will not require hospitalization.
Does COVID-19 cause pregnancy complications?
We do not yet know whether COVID-19 increases the risk for complications during pregnancy. There are reports from other areas of the world that the risk for preterm delivery may be higher among pregnant patients with COVID-19. It remains unclear whether this reflects spontaneous preterm labor or whether obstetricians delivered patients with COVID-19 earlier than their due date to directly benefit the patient.
Is it safe for me to come to hospital? I’m worried that I might get infected by being there.
Hospitals, including labor and delivery units, are taking extraordinary precautions to keep our patients and staff healthy, which may include restrictions to visitors. Visit your hospital’s website for information about visitor restrictions.
Can my baby get COVID-19 if I have COVID-19 during pregnancy?
We do not yet know if the virus can be transmitted across the placenta, but most babies born to mothers with COVID-19 have not been infected.
If I have COVID-19, will I need a c-section?
Typically, no. For women who are only mildly symptomatic, there is no evidence that this would help you or your baby. Your doctor may recommend a c-section for another reason not related to COVID-19. It is possible that patients who become very sick with COVID-19 may not be able to tolerate a long labor.
What will happen if I have COVID-19 at the time of my delivery?
Your team will wear special equipment (masks, gowns and gloves) to help protect against infection. After birth, your baby may be at increased risk of infection. Talk to your doctor and pediatrician about the best recommendations for you and caring for your baby.
Can I breastfeed if I have COVID-19?
Yes. Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most infants. Limited studies have not found the virus in breast milk and your breast milk may provide antibodies to help protect your newborn. If you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19, precautions to avoid spreading the virus include washing hands before touching your baby and wearing a mask. If you choose to express breast milk with a manual or electric breast pump, wash your hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and clean the pump and parts after each use. Consider having someone who is not sick feed your baby the pumped milk.
Visit the CDC’s website for the most up-to-date information about breastfeeding precautions for COVID-19.
What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?
If you have fever, cough, difficulty breathing, loss of your sense of smell, or exposure to someone with known COVID-19, you should call your OB/GYN’s office. Your provider will tell you if you need to come to the hospital or stay at home. Most people will be able to stay at home and monitor their symptoms.
How can I stay healthy during pregnancy?
Pregnant patients can maintain their health in the same ways that people who are not pregnant do: by washing hands frequently and staying at home as much as possible. Hydration and adequate rest also are important in maintaining the health of your immune system.
Is there anything else I should be asking?
We recognize that delivering a baby right now may cause anxiety; this is a natural reflection of love for your growing family. We remain committed to keeping you and your family safe and to preserving the joy of childbirth.