Updated August 6, 2020.
Pregnancy can be one of the most exciting, joyous times for an expecting family. From decorating a nursery and picking out baby clothes to finding out the sex and sharing the news with friends, there is a lot to look forward to as you await the arrival of your newest family member. For those expecting during the coronavirus pandemic, however, much of this excitement may be clouded by newfound anxiety and uncertainty. While it’s natural to be nervous about bringing a new life into the world, COVID-19 has left many expectant mothers worried about the health and safety of their babies, as well as their own pre and postnatal care. Here’s what we know about COVID-19 and pregnancy so far:
Are pregnant women at high risk of getting COVID-19?
Currently, we do not believe women are at higher-risk of contracting COVID-19 than the general population. As this is a rapidly evolving situation, however, much is still unknown. Pregnant women have historically had a higher risk of severe illness when infected with viruses similar to COVID-19, including respiratory viruses like the flu. There is some research indicating that pregnant women might be at increased risk of illness and hospitalization from COVID-19 and may be more likely to be in the ICU because of these complications. As a result, we encourage you to follow our general recommendations for protecting yourself against the virus, including practicing social distancing, washing your hands, and frequently disinfecting high-touch surfaces.
If I have COVID-19, will I pass it to my baby?
At this point, it is not known whether COVID-19 can be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy or what developmental impact the virus may have. While a small number of babies have tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after birth, experts are not certain whether they developed the virus before, after, or during birth. Our current understanding is that the risk of mother-to child transmission during pregnancy is very low. It’s important to note, however, that newborns can be infected with the virus after being in close contact with someone who has the virus.
Should pregnant women be tested for COVID-19?
Unless you are experiencing symptoms, we do not recommend routine testing for pregnant patients at this time. This is because the risk of going to a testing site or the ER and potentially being exposed to the virus outweighs the benefit of testing. If you are experiencing symptoms and would like to be tested, please reach out to your primary care provider to discuss low exposure drive-through testing options. To learn more about our testing options, read here.
Is it safe to still go into the office for prenatal visits?
Maintaining your prenatal care is one of the best ways you can protect the health and safety of your child right now. While it’s important to follow social distancing and stay-at-home orders, it’s equally important to follow through with your prenatal care plan. If you’re concerned about attending an in-office visit, reach out to your primary care provider. Many doctors' offices (like ours!) have set up safe screening and scheduling processes to allow for patients to continue receiving essential care. At One Medical, we’ve also altered the structure of our prenatal appointments in order to minimize the number of in-person visits and have encouraged our members to reach out to our virtual medical team before coming into the office.
Should I make any changes to my delivery or labor plan?
Though it may seem scary to enter a hospital or healthcare clinic right now, many hospital systems and birth centers have enacted new measures to keep both mothers and babies safe from infection. Some hospitals are limiting the number of visitors or people allowed in the delivery room. UCSF Birth Center, for instance, is allowing one support person per patient. There are also doulas that can join the labor virtually. Additionally, many hospital systems are requiring women to be tested for COVID-19 before their delivery or upon arrival to the hospital for labor. If you test positive, you may need to wear a mask while in labor. You can also expect your doctor or nurse to be wearing personal protective equipment like a mask and gloves. Some hospitals are also allowing mothers and their newborns to leave earlier if they wish. If you have concerns about the place you have chosen to deliver your baby, reach out to your primary care provider. They will be able to share with you the hospital system or birth center’s most updated policies.
If I have tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms, is it safe to breastfeed?
There has been no evidence so far to suggest transmission of the virus through breast milk. That being said, newborns can be at risk of infection when in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. To protect your baby, we recommend wearing a cloth face covering and gloves when breast or bottle feeding and washing your hands beforehand. If you choose to express breast milk, wear a cloth face covering during expression and wash your hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and before expressing breast milk. If possible, expressed breast milk should be fed to your baby by a healthy caregiver who does not have COVID-19 and is not at high-risk of infection. For more on caring for your child if you’re sick, read here.
Is it safe to have visitors around the new baby?
While you may be excited to introduce your newborn to extended family and friends, doing so may put your baby at risk of infection. We recommend keeping visitors aways from your baby until state and local social distancing orders have been lifted. Instead of in-person visits, try hosting Facetime or video calls to introduce your newest family member to your loved ones. If your friends and family are eager to help out or bring gifts, suggest they drop off diapers, supplies, groceries, or prepared meals outside your door. Family members who live in the same household should be up to date on standard vaccines and wear gloves and a mask when handling the baby. Anyone who is sick, especially with a cough, fever, or other respiratory symptoms, should not be in contact with the newborn.
What if I’m trying to get pregnant. Should I wait?
While there may be no medical reason to modify your plans, there are several factors to consider if you decide to try to conceive. Given it is not known how long the pandemic will last, for instance, healthcare systems may experience staffing shortages or require safety measures to delay or postpone routine prenatal and postnatal care. Additionally, social distancing may interfere with traditional birth celebrations and visits from family members. It may also mean a lack of help in the first few weeks as a new parent. When thinking about becoming pregnant especially with your second or third child, consider how your childcare arrangements may be impacted when you and your partner are away at the hospital. Caring for both your newborn and older children may be especially difficult with limited support from friends and family. Ultimately the decision is a personal one that should be made between you, your partner, and your healthcare provider.
The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, Portland, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.
Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. The One Medical Group entities and 1Life Healthcare, Inc. make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.