Frequently asked questions for new and expecting parents

What to know about coronavirus and having a baby

Pregnancy and Coronavirus

The coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing stress and worry for many parents – expecting and new. Here are some answers to some common questions you may have during this time. 

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 (coronavirus) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? What should I do if I have COVID-19 symptoms?

Symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild to severe, and can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose or nasal congestion
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Decreased sense of smell or taste

If you think you have symptoms of COVID-19, please call your pregnancy care provider or primary care provider. He or she will review your symptoms over the phone and then recommend if you should stay home, go to a testing site or clinic for evaluation, or go to the Emergency Department.

If you have severe shortness of breath, have someone drive you to the nearest Emergency Department.

If you are pregnant, please follow the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These recommendations change often, so be sure to check back for updated information.

Are pregnant women at risk of getting COVID-19?

Yes. Early data out of China suggests that most pregnant women with COVID-19 do not become sicker than non-pregnant women with the illness. However, because this is a new virus, health care providers do not know for sure at this time.

Because pregnant women are more susceptible to other viral respiratory infections, like influenza (the flu), the CDC predicts that pregnant women may experience more severe COVID-19 symptoms than the general population.

How can I help protect myself from COVID-19 if I am pregnant?

As with the flu or any other virus, the best ways to help protect yourself from COVID-19 are to:

  • Wash your hands often with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Clean surfaces in your home with usual household cleaners and disinfectants.
  • Cover your sneezes or coughs, and throw your tissues in the trash as soon as possible.
  • Try to stand 6 feet away from others, do not shake hands and avoid crowds.
  • Wear a mask when you go out in public.

Many pregnant women are also choosing to stay home as much as possible after 36 weeks of pregnancy.

Will my baby be OK if I get COVID-19?

Because this is a new virus, there is not a lot of research on how COVID-19 might affect an unborn baby. At this time, it is unknown if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the virus to her baby during pregnancy or delivery. Research has not found the virus in amniotic fluid or breastmilk.

With the information available, a baby is more likely to become positive with COVID-19 after delivery when coming in contact with respiratory droplets, or in contact with the mother or other infected persons.

According to the CDC, high fevers during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the risk of certain birth defects. Catching other viral respiratory infections, including the flu, during pregnancy is linked to preterm labor and low birth weight.

What type of prenatal care will I have during this outbreak?

Prenatal care includes many important routine visits. There are many parts of prenatal care that cannot happen outside of the clinic.

If you are healthy and have a low-risk pregnancy, you will have the following prenatal visits:

  • 12 weeks (Your first prenatal visit is usually when you are 12 weeks pregnant. You will have an ultrasound to estimate your due date.)
  • 20 weeks
  • 28 weeks
  • 36 weeks
  • 38 weeks and then weekly until you deliver your baby.

If you need to be seen more often, your pregnancy care provider will talk about this with you.

Your clinic will call you before your next scheduled visit to talk about any changes needed to your visit schedule due to COVID-19. There may be other options like telehealth, phone and online visits as well. Any non-essential visits will be cancelled.

To protect other people, no visitors may come with you to your prenatal visits.

If you need prenatal testing, your pregnancy care provider will schedule this for you.

Can I bring a support person with me to the hospital?

Yes. You will be allowed to have one healthy support person with you during your hospital stay. This support person can be your partner, a family member, a friend or a doula. Who you bring with to support you is entirely up to you.

Learn more about guidelines for your labor and delivery support person.

How long can I labor at home before coming to the hospital?

During your last month of pregnancy, your health care provider will give you instructions on when to come to the hospital.

What are the risks of a home birth?

Home births can have increased risks such as the delayed response to urgent needs such as medical or surgical emergencies, or the resuscitation of your baby. Hospital births provide the reassurance that emergency care is available right away if you or your baby need additional care.

What will happen when I deliver my baby?

When you arrive at the hospital, you and your support person will be given a homemade cloth mask to wear (if you both are not already wearing masks).

You and your support person will be asked a few questions to help determine your risk of having COVID-19. You both may also have your temperature checked.

 

If you are admitted to the hospital, your support person may go with you to the labor and delivery unit. You will only be allowed one support person during your hospital stay.

You will be cared for in a private room. Your health care team will wear protective equipment.

During your hospital stay, your support person will be asked if he or she is having any symptoms of COVID-19 and have his or her temperature taken two times each day. If your support person develops a fever or any symptoms of COVID-19, he or she will need to leave the hospital. You can have a new support person come to the hospital if he or she has no symptoms.

You and your support person should plan to stay in your room throughout your hospital stay. You will both be asked to wear a mask when in the hallways or when a hospital staff member enters your room.

What will happen after my baby is born?

If you have COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19, your baby is at risk of getting the virus after birth. At this time, it is unclear how COVID-19 affects babies. Because of this, the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine recommend taking steps to help prevent your baby from getting infected.

While you are in the hospital, the recommendation is that you and your baby should be in separate rooms until you can no longer spread the virus.

  • Your baby will have his or her own room.
  • Your baby will be cared for by another healthy family member or nursing staff.
  • Your baby will not have other visitors.
  • Your baby can have breastmilk that you pump or express.

If you and your baby cannot be in separate rooms or you do not want this to happen, the recommendation is for you and your baby to “room-in. (This is also known as co-location.)

  • Your baby will stay in the same room.
  • Your baby will be separated from you by a distance of 6 feet.
  • You can breastfeed your baby if you wash your hands and wear a mask and clean gloves.
  • A healthy family member will provide all other care for your baby.

This option may change depending on your health, room availability and the availability of another healthy family member.

If you have any questions about the separation, please talk with your health care team. This can be a difficult time, but your health care team is working hard to help reduce your baby’s exposure to the virus while caring for you and your baby.

Will I be separated from my baby?

If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19, you will not be separated from your baby. If you have tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19, it is possible that you may pass a virus to your baby. In this case, it is recommended that your baby is cared for in a separate room by a healthy caregiver, or that you remain at least 6 feet away from your baby until you can no longer spread the virus.

Will I catch COVID-19 at the hospital?

Your health care team will take every precaution to protect you and your baby from getting COVID-19 while you both are at the hospital. For this reason, you will see them wearing masks while they care for you and your baby. They will also wear gowns and gloves for more invasive procedures, such as delivery. This helps to protect you, your family and staff members from COVID-19

Can I breastfeed my baby if I have COVID-19?

If you have COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19, you may pump or express your breastmilk to feed your baby. The CDC and AAP recommend that a healthy caregiver feed the breastmilk to your baby with a bottle or another method.

When pumping or expressing breastmilk:

  • Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Put on a mask.
  • After you have pumped or expressed your breastmilk, pour it into the container provided.
  • Wipe the surface where the container will be placed with an antibacterial wipe.
  • Put a paper towel down on that surface. Place the container on the paper towel.
  • Label the breastmilk as directed by your nurse. Place the container in the plastic bag provided.

You may store the breastmilk in the refrigerator in your room. When it is taken to your baby, your nurse will pass the breastmilk to another staff member outside the room. The container will be placed in a clean plastic bag and taken to your baby.

If you feel well and have only been exposed to COVID-19 or only have mild symptoms, you may be able to breastfeed your baby if you take special precautions to reduce exposing your baby to respiratory droplets.

If you choose to breastfeed your baby, it is important to:

  • Keep your breasts clean and covered by your gown. If your breasts are exposed to respiratory droplets, take a shower or wash them with warm, soapy water.
  • Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Put on a mask.

What do I need to know about breastfeeding at home?

If you have COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19, it is important to take special steps to reduce exposing your baby to the virus. This includes washing your hands and wearing a mask until these three things have happened:

  • you have had no fever for at least 72 hours (that is 3 full days of no fever without the use of medicine that reduces fever)

and

  • other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath are better)

and

  • at least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared

If pumping or expressing breastmilk, wash your hands before touching any pump or bottle parts. Follow the manual instructions to clean the pump properly after each use. If possible, consider having someone who is healthy care for and feed the breastmilk to your baby.

If anyone has COVID-19, they should remain separated (home isolation precautions) from other family members in the house. This includes your baby, except for breastfeeding. Ideally, if there is a healthy adult in your house, he or she should care for your baby.

What will happen when it’s time to leave the hospital?

If you have COVID-19, you will be able to leave the hospital when you and your health care provider decide it is right for you.

If you are not ready to leave the hospital, but your baby is, he or she may be able to go home with a healthy caregiver. This caregiver will be given instructions on how to care for your baby.

When you are ready to leave the hospital, continue home isolation as directed by your health care provider.

Talk with your health care team about when you and your baby should have follow-up visits.