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.
It is important to protect yourself and your baby. The NSW Government website has information on how to protect yourself and others.
We recommend that you
- ask your maternity care provider for your free pregnancy flu vaccination at your next visit
- tell your maternity care provider if you are a smoker or have a heart or lung condition such as asthma. You may become more unwell
- if you have any concerns call your GP or maternity care provider or you can call Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 (24 hour helpline).
At this time, there is limited evidence of the risk
in pregnant women. The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has
advice in regards to managing vulnerable people in the workplace.
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 suspected or confirmed COVID-19 in pregnancy.
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).
Is it safe to come to hospital for antenatal visits or to give birth?
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, other infection control procedures and social distancing.
- 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
- 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 while in self-isolation seek immediate medical attention. Call ahead to your GP or emergency department and tell them you are in self-isolation 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 these circumstances, and where and when to come to hospital. Our hospitals take great care to limit the spread of disease.
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 significantly impacted by 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. 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
- 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?
Whether or not you have COVID-19, one support person will usually be permitted into the birth unit with you. That person must not have any symptoms or have suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
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 who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 will need to protect their baby during any close contact by wearing a face mask, and maintaining hand hygiene for at least 14 days after birth, and while you remain infectious.
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 nominated asymptomatic member of your family who can look after the baby for you. These plans will be discussed with you and your partner in advance of the birth wherever possible.
Visiting the hospital nursery is restricted and you will not be able to visit your baby 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 is not recommended.
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 him or her 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 circumstances. 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.
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 but may include
- difficulty breathing/wheezing
- poor feeding
If your baby becomes unwell, or if you are worried, call your GP, maternity care provider or Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 (24 hour helpline).
Health and Social Policy Branch (HSPB)
Maternity, Child and Family, HSPB
Dr Nigel Lyons, Deputy Secretary, Health System Strategy and Planning
- 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.