What if I get sick with COVID-19 during pregnancy?

May 26, 2020

Updated December 9, 2020

It’s recommended that all pregnant people take extra precautions to keep safe and healthy during pregnancy. But nowadays, pregnant people are taking extra precautions to avoid getting coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as well. 

Are your chances of getting COVID-19 higher during pregnancy?

We have limited pregnancy-specific data about COVID-19. Based on what we know at this time, pregnant people are at increased risk for getting sicker from COVID-19 and may have a higher risk of pregnancy complications, such as preterm birth, preeclampsia, emergency cesarean (C-section) delivery or pregnancy loss. However, more studies are being published and we are learning more each day.

What is my risk of getting seriously ill?

During pregnancy, changes in your immune system may make you more likely to get sick with some viruses. According to recent data, there is an increased risk for deaths in pregnant people with COVID-19 than non-pregnant people. Recent CDC data showed that symptomatic pregnant people with COVID-19 had a 70% higher risk of death compared to non-pregnant people. If you have a severe chronic health condition like lung disease or diabetes, you may be at a higher risk of serious complications if you get COVID-19.

What can I do if I’m pregnant and I get COVID-19 symptoms?

If you have a fever, cough and other symptoms, you may have COVID-19. Call your health care provider for advice and directions. You can also self-check your symptoms using this CDC tool.  

Check your temperature frequently and monitor your cough and breathing. If you have any of the following warning signs, call 911 or go to the hospital right away:

  • Difficulty breathing (more than what you normally experience during pregnancy)
  • Constant pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Can’t wake up or stay awake

According to the CDC, most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home. With your provider’s OK, follow CDC recommendations to care for yourself and avoid spreading the disease to others, If you have mild symptoms.

If you are pregnant and have tested positive for COVID-19 or think you may have COVID-19, read below for answers to commonly asked questions:

  • Will my baby get COVID-19 too?

It’s not clear whether a pregnant person with COVID-19 can transmit the virus to the baby. Recent research published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) and other journals suggests that transmission during pregnancy may be possible.What should I do when labor starts?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (also called ACOG) says that for most pregnant people with COVID-19, your labor and delivery plans do not need to change. Talk to your provider about your preferences and update your birth plan using our template here.

If you are in labor and you have COVID-19 or you think you have COVID-19, call the hospital labor and delivery department or birth center before you go. Be sure to tell the staff that you have or may have COVID-19. Then the medical team can prepare to take the best possible care of you and your baby. They will take steps to prevent your baby and your care team from getting the infection. Wear a face mask or cloth face covering when you go into the hospital or birth center.

  • How can a hospital or birth center protect my baby after birth?

If you have COVID-19 (suspected or confirmed), your baby will be tested for COVID-19, whether he has signs of infection or not.

Experts think that COVID-19 spreads through small liquid droplets from the nose or mouth when someone who is infected breathes, talks, coughs, sings or sneezes. Infections occur mainly through exposure to droplets when a person is in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. A newborn can get COVID-19 from person-to-person contact after birth. If you have or may have COVID-19, talk to your health care provider about how to protect your baby.

The decision of separating you and your baby to prevent him from getting the infection is made between you and the health care team. You and your family can talk with your health care providers about the risks and benefits of staying in separate rooms before you make this decision. Skin-to-skin contact has lots of benefits. Not only does it help keep your baby’s heart and breathing regulated, but it also increases the chances of successful breastfeeding and helps reduce your stress.

If you and your baby are not separated, you can reduce the chances of your baby getting infected by washing your hands thoroughly and putting on a face mask before touching your baby. Your health care team may help with other precautions like keeping 6 feet of space or a curtain between you and your baby.

  • Should I breastfeed my baby if I have COVID-19?

Breast milk helps protect babies from many illnesses. It is also the best food for most babies. So far, COVID-19 has not been found in the breast milk of people with COVID-19.

There are a few simple hygiene tips to help protect your baby from COVID-19 while you breastfeed her directly or from a bottle with pumped breast milk.

  • Wash your hands before feeding your baby.  Use soap and water if possible.  Alcohol-based sanitizer is OK if you don’t have soap and water.
  • Clean your breast before feeding.
  • Wear a facemask or face covering to cover any droplets from the nose or mouth while breastfeeding and handling pumps or bottle parts.
  • Use clean hands to handle your breast pump and bottle parts before and after use.
  • Ask for help at home or in the hospital.
    • Pump your breast milk and have someone who is not sick feed your baby.
    • Make sure the healthy caregiver feeding your baby also follows hygiene tips.

Your health care provider may recommend that you remain separate from your baby at home and in the hospital, except for breastfeeding time. Or she may suggest you pump your breast milk and have a healthy caregiver feed it to your baby. If you feel anxious due to COVID-19, your pregnancy and your baby, make sure you talk to your provider.