Coronavirus and Pregnancy

When you're pregnant, you'd expect to have all kinds of questions and worries. But “What if I get coronavirus?” probably wasn't one of them.

Doctors and scientists are still learning how the virus affects everyone, including expectant mothers and their unborn babies. Here's what they know -- and don't know.

COVID-19 and Pregnancy

Does pregnancy make me more likely to have a severe case if I get COVID-19?

Yes. Your chances of getting severely ill from COVID-19 are higher while you're pregnant and for about 42 days afterward. Pregnant people who have COVID-19-19 with symptoms are more likely than non-pregnant people who have COVID-19 to need treatment in an intensive care unit, need a ventilator to help with breathing, or to die from the disease.    

In general, though, your overall risk of getting seriously ill is low.

A few of the things that can raise your risk of getting severely ill are:

  • Certain health conditions, like obesity or gestational diabetes
  • Being older
  • Working in places where people are sick, like hospitals
  • Social, economic, and health inequalities

What should I do if I have symptoms of COVID-19 or if I come into contact with someone who has the virus ?

If you're exposed to the virus, call your doctor and let them know what happened. They'll probably tell you to watch for signs of illness such as a fever or a cough. If you get these symptoms, call your doctor to talk about where to go for testing.

Protecting Your Baby

How do I keep myself and my baby as safe as possible?

You can get vaccinated. Experts say the COVID-19 vaccines aren't likely to pose a risk for pregnant people. It's also fine to get vaccinated if you're breastfeeding.

Research is still ongoing, but early data from the CDC's and FDA's safety monitoring systems hasn't spotted any safety concerns for expectant mothers who get vaccinated or for their babies. Eventually, experts want to see more follow-up data.

It's possible to have mild side effects after you get vaccinated, especially after the second shot of a two-dose vaccine, like Pfizer and Moderna. But there haven't been reports of pregnant people getting different side effects after receiving those vaccines from those who aren't pregnant.

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If you run a fever after getting vaccinated, take acetaminophen and call your doctor right away. A prolonged high fever is linked to worse pregnancy outcomes. Also call the doctor if you think you're having an allergic reaction. Those are rare, and you can get treatment for them. Before you get vaccinated, let your doctor know if you've had allergic reactions to other vaccines or shots in the past.

If you're pregnant and you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines, talk to your doctor. Or call MotherToBaby at 866-626-6847 during weekdays to ask questions confidentially free of charge.

There aren't any treatments for COVID-19. If you think you have symptoms, call your doctor. They may recommend that you take acetaminophen to keep your fever down, rest, and drink lots of fluids. You probably won't need to go to the hospital. Call your doctor right away if your symptoms get worse, especially if you have trouble breathing.

If I get the coronavirus before I deliver, can it hurt my baby?

There's no evidence that the virus itself can lead to birth defects, miscarriage, or any other problems. But a fever in early pregnancy, from COVID-19 or any other cause, can raise the chances of birth defects. And severe lung illnesses late in your pregnancy can make you more likely to deliver your baby prematurely. Some babies born to women who had coronavirus were born preterm. But it's not clear whether the virus was to blame.

If I have the coronavirus, can I pass it to my baby during pregnancy or delivery?

According to a few reports, some newborns have tested positive for COVID-19. But that doesn't necessarily mean they picked it up from their mothers in the womb. The most common way to get COVID-19 is through respiratory droplets that a sick person coughs or sneezes. Experts believe it's more likely that infected babies picked it up through droplets after birth from their mother or a caregiver.

If I have coronavirus, can I breastfeed my baby?

Researchers have tested the breast milk of only a few women with coronavirus. The samples had no virus. That doesn't mean you can't pass on the virus through coughing or sneezing while nursing. The safest option may be to pump and have someone who isn't infected feed your baby. If you really want to nurse your baby yourself, wash your hands before breastfeeding, and consider wearing a face mask. Take these same precautions while bottle-feeding your baby.

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Coronavirus Prevention While Pregnant

Should I take any extra steps to protect myself besides the ones the CDC and state and local government recommend for everyone?

There's no evidence that pregnancy makes you any more likely to get coronavirus. Still, it's a serious threat to everyone. You should take all the recommended steps to avoiding getting sick. Those include washing your hands often, not touching your face, staying at least 6 feet away from other people, and avoiding groups. Wear a cloth face mask when you're in public places like stores and doctor's offices.

Should I travel?

Crowded places like airports might raise your chances of getting infected with the coronavirus. Many doctors recommend against traveling during the pandemic. Talk with your doctor about the risks, and check guidelines from local and federal health officials.

Should I reschedule my baby shower?

The CDC urges everyone to practice social distancing to slow the spread of the virus. This means limiting your contact with other people in homes and in public places like parks or restaurants. It's safest to postpone your shower or hold an online get-together instead.

Should I have prenatal visits?

Talk to your medical team before your appointments. They might want you to come in less often or to have checkups on the phone or online. They may recommend that you keep track of your baby's movements and get a cuff to measure your blood pressure.

What to Expect With Delivery

If I have the coronavirus, will my delivery still go as planned?

There's no evidence that women with COVID-19 shouldn't deliver vaginally. But delivery might be different from what you expected.

One group of experts suggests that if the mother has COVID-19, it might be helpful to leave the vernix -- a white, waxy coating on newborns' skin -- on for 24 hours after birth. The coating contains antimicrobial substances that could protect against infection.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that babies born to women who have the coronavirus be isolated and monitored for symptoms.

Whether or not you have coronavirus, the ongoing pandemic means many hospitals are limiting the number of visitors to one or none. At home, before and after your baby arrives, you should stick to your social distancing plan and avoid visitors as much as possible.

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Will I get the care and attention I need during my delivery?

You should expect to get usual care during your delivery. It's unlikely that hospitals would call obstetricians away from their regular duties in labor and delivery in order to provide care somewhere else. If you have questions, ask your obstetrics team.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on May 28, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Denise Jamieson, MD, MPH, the James Robert McCord Professor & Chair, Department of Gynecology & Obstetrics, Emory University School of Medicine.

UpToDate: “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Pregnant and worried about the new coronavirus?”

CDC: “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pregnancy & Breastfeeding,” “Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19,” “Coronavirus and Travel in the United States,” “Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation,” “Pregnant and Recently Pregnant People,” “COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding.”

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Coronavirus (COVID-19), Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding: A Message for Patients.”

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