Coronavirus: pregnancy and newborns

Dr Babak Ashrafi

Medically reviewed by

Dr Babak Ashrafi

Last reviewed: 24 Apr 2020

Being pregnant and giving birth in a pandemic can be daunting. You may be worried about getting coronavirus and passing it to your baby, or that your partner won’t be allowed in the maternity ward with you. Here, you can find everything you need to know about how coronavirus affects pregnant women, newborns, and the precautions you should be taking.

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Coronavirus and pregnancy

What effect does coronavirus have on pregnant women?

There is no evidence to suggest that pregnant women are more likely to get coronavirus, compared to other healthy individuals. This does not mean that pregnant women cannot catch the virus.

So far, most pregnant women who contract coronavirus do not appear to become more unwell than other healthy adults who catch the virus, but they have been placed in the increased risk group.

It is thought that most pregnant women who catch the virus, will experience mild or moderate symptoms which include:

  • Dry, persistent cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of taste or sense of smell
  • Headaches

If you do get symptoms which suggest you may have coronavirus, you should rest, stay at home and contact your antenatal team. You can also use the online NHS 111 service for information.

If your symptoms persist or become more severe, contact your maternity care team or call NHS111.

If you're concerned that you may have coronavirus, you can learn everything you need to know about how to get tested here.

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Will coronavirus affect my baby if I catch it?

Current data shows that coronavirus does not appear to increase the risk of miscarriage, but it may be possible for the virus to pass from mother to baby during pregnancy or birth. In the few cases where some babies developed coronavirus symptoms, they recovered fully.

Current evidence suggests that it is unlikely coronavirus will affect the development of babies. The UK is observing all pregnant women who develop coronavirus and their newborns for any changes.

How can I protect myself and my baby while pregnant?

Pregnant women are considered part of the ’at increased risk’ category. Although there is no evidence to suggest that pregnant women are more likely to get coronavirus, a small number of pregnant women may become seriously ill if they catch the virus.

If you are pregnant or have someone in your household who is they should:

  • wash their hands regularly
  • use a tissue or if unavailable, their elbow, to catch a cough or a sneeze.
  • remember to discard any tissue used right away and wash your hands
  • avoid contact with anyone who is displaying symptoms of the coronavirus
  • avoid using public transport where possible
  • work from home if possible
  • avoid visiting people or receiving visitors outside of your household
  • avoid large and small gatherings in public places
  • use telephone services to contact your GP and other essential services

It is advised that pregnant women should follow this guidance as strictly as possible to avoid catching the virus. If you are worried about your health during isolation, do not hesitate to contact your maternity team or GP for advice.

Learn more about protecting yourself from coronavirus

Should I attend my antenatal and postnatal appointments?

Yes, you must attend both antenatal and postnatal appointments during this time if you’re well. You should contact your maternity team for advice and additional information for planning your trip. It may be necessary for them to reschedule, especially if they have staffing issues.

If you feel unwell or experience symptoms of coronavirus, you should self-isolate and contact your midwife to let her know and postpone any of your routine visits until your period of self-isolation is over.

If you have any concerns, you can contact your maternity team who will be able to give you the most up to date advice.

Will my partner be able to attend the birth?

Your chosen birthing partner should be able to attend the birth with you if they are well. It is encouraged that you have someone with you when in labour and during birth.

If your chosen birthing partner has symptoms of coronavirus, they will not be able to attend the maternity suite with you. This is because they may infect other pregnant women, babies and maternity staff.

If you go into labour during a period of self-isolation, you need to call your maternity unit for advice immediately. Be sure to tell them you have a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus.

If you’re in the early stages of labour and have mild coronavirus symptoms, you’ll be asked to remain at home. It’s important to note this is normal practice during the early stages of labour, even when there is no pandemic.

When your maternity team tells you to attend the maternity unit, you will be advised as follows:

  • Attend the maternity unit using private transport, e.g. your car or call 111 or 999 for advice whichever is appropriate
  • You’ll be met at the entrance of the maternity unit with a face mask which you will need to wear until you are isolated in a suitable room
  • You will be given a coronavirus test to confirm the infection
  • Your birth partner can stay with you, but no visitors will be allowed
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What will happen after giving birth?

Your maternity team will give you instructions on what to do next after the birth of your baby. They will be able to give you the right guidance depending on if you have coronavirus symptoms or not.

Can I stay with my baby after I give birth if I have coronavirus?

You should be able to stay with your baby unless your baby needs to be cared for in the neonatal unit for other reasons.

You and your partner should have a conversation with your maternity team regarding the risks and benefits of keeping your baby with you after birth. This will help your medical team provide the right care for you and your baby.

Will my baby be tested for coronavirus?

If you have a confirmed case of coronavirus when you give birth, your baby may be tested, too. Neonatal doctors (who specialise in caring for newborn babies) will examine your baby and give you advice and tell you if your baby will need to be tested.

Will I be able to breastfeed?

Yes, there is no evidence yet to show that coronavirus can be passed on or carried in breastmilk.

The main risk during breastfeeding is passing on droplets from coughing or sneezing, which may contain the virus, to your baby. The benefits of breast milk outweigh any potential risks of passing the infection from mother to baby through breastfeeding. Your maternity team should discuss the risks and benefits of breastfeeding with you.

When you or anyone else feeds your baby, try to follow these precautions strictly:

  • Wash your hands before touching your baby and/or feeding bottle
  • Try to avoid coughing or sneezing over your baby while they are feeding
  • Consider wearing a face mask while feeding your baby
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Medically reviewed by:
Dr Babak Ashrafi Clinical Lead for Service Expansion

Babak studied medicine at King’s College London and graduated in 2003, having also gained a bachelor’s degree in Physiology during his time there. He completed his general practice (GP) training in East London, where he worked for a number of years as a partner at a large inner-city GP practice. He completed the Royal College of GPs membership exam in 2007.

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Last reviewed: 24 Apr 2020




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