I’m pregnant, how will COVID-19 affect me?

As this is a new virus, we are still learning how it may affect you and your baby. Our current understanding is based on women who get the virus late in their pregnancy. There is no information yet about women who may have had an infection in early pregnancy. We expect that most pregnant women who get the virus will experience cold and flu like symptoms.

We recommend that

  • you ask your maternity care provider for your free pregnancy flu vaccination at your next visit
  • you tell your maternity care provider if you are a smoker or have a heart or lung condition such as asthma, as you may become more unwell if you are diagnosed with COVID-19
  • if you have any concerns about yourself or your baby, please seek medical advice by calling your GP, maternity care provider, Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 (24 hour helpline) or attend your nearest Emergency Department.

It is important to protect yourself and your baby. The NSW Government website has information on how to protect yourself and others.

NSW Health has developed useful videos for mothers and families about:

  • attending antenatal appointments
  • COVID-19 infection in pregnancy
  • extra precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic for you and your baby.


How will COVID-19 affect my baby?

There is a lot more we need to understand about COVID-19, but to date it seems there is no evidence of harm to babies of women who have a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 in pregnancy. 

In other countries some babies born to women with COVID-19 have been born early (prematurely). In most cases doctors advised that the baby should be born early because the mother was unwell. 

Viral infections can cause a high fever. If you have a high fever at any stage of your pregnancy call your GP or maternity care provider as soon as possible. You can call Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 (24 hour helpline). It is safe to use paracetamol (e.g. Panadol) in pregnancy at the recommended dose to help to control your fever.


Is it safe to come to hospital for antenatal visits or to give birth?

Hospitals are taking extra precautions to minimise the risk of infection to patients, visitors and staff. 

It is safe and important to visit and stay connected with all the maternity care providers involved in your pregnancy and birth care and to contact them if you are worried about anything. It is also really important that you have all the usual tests, immunisations and check ups you need during pregnancy. 

Our high-quality maternity and newborn services continue to be provided, including routine antenatal investigations, ultrasounds, maternal and fetal assessments and birth care.  

To keep you, your baby and the staff looking after you safe, hospitals may change the way care is provided including: 

  • providing care in the community rather than in hospital 
  • offering care by video or phone 
  • limiting the number of support people and visitors coming into the hospital (to reduce the chance of spreading the infection) 
  • promoting hand hygiene, physical distancing and other infection control procedures. 
If you have COVID-19 symptoms, tell the maternity service before you go to the hospital. This is important to help us plan your care.  We are fully equipped to care for pregnant women with COVID-19.


Can I come to antenatal appointments if I’m in self-isolation?

Call and speak to your maternity care provider or hospital. 

  • Tell them that you are in self-isolation for suspected or confirmed COVID-19. 
  • Ask what you should do about attending your appointments. They will help you decide if you need to be seen in person or via telehealth.
  • Travel for medical visits may be permitted under the current restrictions.

What if I feel unwell or am worried during self- isolation?

If you begin to feel unwell (have a fever or shortness of breath, cough or a respiratory illness) or are concerned about your baby (such as a change in fetal movements) while in self-isolation seek immediate medical attention, even if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Call ahead to your GP or emergency department or maternity care provider and tell them you are in self-isolation due to COVID-19 before you arrive. 

What if I go into labour during self- isolation?

If you go into labour, call the hospital, or your maternity care provider. Tell them that you are in self-isolation due to COVID-19. They will tell you what to do in this situation, and where and when to come to hospital. Our hospitals take great care to limit the spread of infection. 

What will happen if I have COVID-19 when I am in labour or giving birth?

Your experience of labour and birth should not be very different due to COVID-19. 

If you have symptoms but have not been tested, we will offer you the test when you arrive at the hospital. You will be looked after in a single room. Maternity care providers looking after you will wear protective equipment (such as a face mask, gloves and apron). You will be taught about the precautions you and your support person will need to take.

If you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection: 

  • you may be asked to use special precautions during and after birth
  • you will still be able to move in labour and birth to the position of your choice, but will not be able to have a water birth to ensure staff safety
  • you will have access to a range of pain relief options such as an early epidural
  • your baby’s heart rate will be continuously monitored in labour.

How many support people am I allowed in with me when I’m in labour?

As part of the effort to protect the community and reduce the spread of COVID-19, local health districts have implemented a range of measures including restricting the number of visitors in hospitals and healthcare centres to minimise risks to patients, visitors and staff.

As community restrictions ease, it remains important that we keep our hospitals safe now and into the future. Everyone entering a hospital will be asked some screening questions.

If you are not suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 then:  

The current advice is that one support person at a time can be present during your labour and birth. Compassionate and cultural considerations for an additional support person should be locally managed by your hospital to support you at this important time.

If you are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 or have been in self-isolation then:  

One consistent support person may be present (i.e. not rotating visits between multiple people). Compassionate and cultural considerations for an additional support person should be locally managed.

If your partner has been self-isolating with you, they can attend birth as long as they have no symptoms. They will be screened at the hospital and required to follow directions.


What happens after my baby is born and I have COVID-19?

After birth if you are unwell you may be moved to a specialised area within the hospital which is caring for patients with COVID-19 infection. If you and your baby are well the baby can stay with you in a single room on the postnatal ward. You will both remain in quarantine (isolation) for a minimum of 14 days after the birth, ether in the hospital or at home.

Skin-to-skin contact at birth and breastfeeding will continue to be encouraged, but mothers and their support person who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 will need to protect their baby during any close contact by wearing a face mask, and washing your hands regularly for at least 14 days after birth, and while you remain infectious.

Your baby will need to be in isolation for 14 days from the last day you are considered infectious, which may be for longer than 14 days after birth. This may be either at home or in the hospital depending on yours and your baby’s condition. You will be able to go home as soon as you and your baby are well enough, and self-isolate at home until you are no longer infectious. During this time the health of you and your baby will need close monitoring. 


What happens if my baby is admitted to the nursery and I have COVID-19?

If your baby is born early or is unwell, or if you yourself are too unwell to look after your baby, he or she will be looked after in a special isolation area. This might be in the hospital nursery, or if your baby is well, in a single room with a chosen asymptomatic member of your family who can look after the baby for you. These plans will be discussed with you and your partner before the birth wherever possible.

Visiting the hospital nursery is restricted and you will not be able to visit your baby in the nursery while you are infectious. If you are separated from your baby, we will support you to express breast milk for your baby and explore ways for you to see your baby such as photos or video. 


Will my baby be tested for COVID-19?

Routine testing of well babies of mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 is not recommended.

Testing is recommended if babies become unwell during the isolation period, whether this is in the hospital setting or at home.


Will my baby be able to have the usual screening tests and vaccinations after birth?

Yes, it is important that all babies receive the usual tests and vaccinations which will protect your baby against several illnesses and ensure any health problems are managed as soon as possible. There may be some changes to the way these are provided though, dependent on your own health and situation. Your midwife and child and family health nurse will talk with you about when and where you baby will receive the first hearing check, newborn bloodspot test, physical examination and vaccinations.

If I have COVID-19, what can I do to prevent my baby catching it?

To prevent transmission to your baby

  • wear a mask when you are feeding or caring for your baby until you are no longer infectious
  • cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or a flexed elbow when coughing and sneezing
  • wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub before touching your baby
  • have your baby at least 1.5 metres away from you when you are not caring for him or her
  • routinely clean and disinfect surfaces you have touched
  • have a healthy adult assist you to care for your baby where possible.
The NSW Government website has information on how to protect yourself and others​.
 

Can I have visitors in the hospital?

As restrictions ease, it remains important that hospitals and healthcare facilities are safe now and into the future. Each local health district has developed its own direction for hospital visitation based on local circumstances such as available space in each ward to allow physical distancing and the prevalence of COVID-19 in the local community.

After giving birth, visits by your partner or carer are not restricted as long as they  do not have symptoms of COVID-19.
Local health districts are best placed to manage requests for additional visitors in the postnatal ward. 

Visits by children to hospitals are not generally encouraged due to difficulty in supervising and ensuring physical distancing. As visitor restrictions in postnatal wards can be challenging for families, NSW Health encourages the use of technology for virtual visits to help stay connected with your family. 

Can visitors meet my new baby at home?

Since a newborn’s immune system​ is still developing, the baby may have a harder time fighting illnesses. It is important to keep practicing physical distancing when your baby comes home from the hospital.
Ways to protect your baby.

  • Keep your baby at home and away from others as much as possible. It is not recommended to have friends and family over to meet the baby, or to take the baby to other people's homes.
  • If you have to take your baby out for instance, to a doctor's visit, keep yourself and your baby at least 1.5 meters from other people.
  • If someone in your home is sick, take all recommended precautions. Keep your baby away from anyone who is sick.
  • At home, all caregivers should wash their hands before and after touching your baby.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19 in babies?

If you have COVID-19, you will need to watch your baby for possible symptoms. COVID-19 symptoms in babies are usually mild. The main symptoms in babies may include:

  • fever
  • difficulty breathing/wheezing
  • poor feeding
  • Irritability or lethargy

If you have any concerns about your baby, please seek medical advice by calling your GP, maternity care provider, Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 (24 hour helpline) or attend your nearest Emergency Department.

If I have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 what is the best way to feed my baby?

Breastfeeding your baby is safe. NSW Health has developed guidance on feeding​ for you to refer to. This includes infant feeding, breastfeeding, expressing breast milk and formula feeding.  

Document information

Developed by

Health and Social Policy Branch (HSPB)

Consultation

Maternity, Child and Family, HSPB

Endorsed by

Dr Nigel Lyons, Deputy Secretary, Health System Strategy and Planning

Review date

Two weekly

Review by

  • Clinical Lead, Maternity and Newborn Community of Practice
  • Pregnancy and Newborn Services Network
  • Chair, Maternity Risk Network
  • Maternity Managers Group

For use by

Maternity and neonatal services, pregnant women, new mothers and their families.

Page Updated: Tuesday 14 July 2020
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW