What You Need to Know While Pregnant During the COVID-19 Pandemic
I am thrilled to be pregnant after experiencing multiple miscarriages. Then the worldwide pandemic (COVID-19) is declared, and I am supposed to have a baby in the middle of it. Life "as we know it" is canceled. My older children cannot have playdates with friends, and we are not supposed to interact with other households. I will have three children under five years old, including a newborn, at home 24/7 for the foreseeable future, and I am unsure if friends and family can help. At my prenatal appointments, everyone is masked, and the smell of hand sanitizer and alcohol fills the air.
I've been in labor twice before, but this time is different. I see tents and hazmat suits outside the hospital that look like a scene from E.T. I am in active labor, and I must answer 20 questions about my health and my spouse's health before being allowed inside the labor and delivery unit. No one is allowed in the hallways. My daughters at home cannot come to visit their newborn baby sister – they will have to wait until we bring her home.
The questions running through my mind are endless…
Pregnancy is a time of celebration and anticipation as you await the arrival of your newborn baby. The changes you and your body are experiencing can be stressful enough, but when your due date lands in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, you are likely to have many questions.
Skip the search engine - here are the answers to common questions regarding pregnancy and the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.
Am I more likely to get infected while pregnant?
Women who are pregnant are more likely to get sick with respiratory viruses, such as the flu, than women who are not pregnant. Since COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, you should be extra cautious to avoid getting sick during pregnancy.
There is still a lot of unknown regarding the COVID-19 virus and pregnancy, however according to the CDC you are likely at a higher risk of getting sick because you are pregnant. With so much uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
How can I protect myself and my baby?
- Wash your hands with soap and water frequently, for at least 20 seconds
- Use hand sanitizer when you are unable to wash your hands (minimum 60% alcohol)
- Avoid touching your face
- Clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces in your home (e.g., door handles, light switches, cell phones, etc.)
- Avoid people who you know are sick
- Practice social distancing, which means staying home, or staying 6 feet away from people who do not live with you
- Wear cloth face masks when out in public settings
I am worried about getting infected in the hospital or medical office. Should I go to my prenatal appointments?
Yes, it is essential to get your prenatal care as scheduled. Medical offices are taking extra precautions to ensure a safe environment, such as increased cleaning frequency and scheduling fewer appointments during the day. Some of your visits might change to phone or video appointments based on your healthcare provider and location. Please contact your healthcare provider if you have specific concerns.
I'm pregnant, and I think I have COVID-19 symptoms. What should I do?
Some of the symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath, headache, loss of smell or taste, fatigue, muscle or body aches, and sore throat. If you experience symptoms like these, contact your healthcare provider, and you may be referred to get tested for COVID-19.
What happens if I test positive for COVID-19 while pregnant? What are the risks to my baby?
Stay calm – this is a stressful situation. Your healthcare provider will instruct you specifically on managing your symptoms and whether you need care in the hospital or at home. Most people can recover at home with rest and lots of fluids.
Unfortunately, there are no definitive answers regarding the baby's risk when the mother tests positive during pregnancy. Per the CDC, it is unclear if COVID-19 is passed to the baby from the mother during pregnancy. Although it is possible that infection may result in miscarriage or preterm (early) delivery, there is not enough evidence to conclude COVID-19 is the definitive cause.
Can I have a baby shower?
Currently, the CDC does not recommend gathering in groups, and recommends staying at least 6 feet away from people who do not live in your home. Even if the city you live in does not require social distancing or masks, it is important to remember that since there is so much unknown regarding COVID-19 that you should be extra cautious. Having a drive-by baby shower may be a good way to celebrate with friends and family from a safe distance.
What can I expect at the hospital when I go into labor?
Hospital policies and procedures vary depending on location, so check with your healthcare provider to see what specifically applies to your hospital.
Some of the common changes you might see in the hospital include:
- Only one support person allowed in the delivery room
- No hallway walking during labor or recovery
- COVID-19 testing upon arrival to the hospital (even without symptoms)
- No in and out privileges for the support person
- Early discharge (if safe for mom and baby)
- Visitor limitations (limited number of visitors or no visitors)
Can I let my friends and family meet the baby?
This might be at the top of your list of questions, but unfortunately, there is no right or wrong answer. You may see stories on the news or social media of people who are having grandparents meet their newborn grandchildren through windows, or not allowing the family to visit at all.
You might be thinking that you need help caring for older children during recovery, or you want the support of your family members and friends during the adjustment period of learning how to care for a new baby.
The decision to have visitors is largely dependent upon personal circumstances, so here are some factors to consider:
- Are cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19 increasing in your area?
- Is the visitor at a higher risk for severe disease?
- Does the visitor need to travel to get to you? What type of exposure might they have during that travel?
- Has the visitor been tested for COVID-19? Would you feel more comfortable if they are tested prior to visiting?
- Is the visitor experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19?
- What is the risk of exposure the visitor has on a regular basis? (consider workplace, social habits, etc.)
Ultimately, you need to consider the benefits and the risks of allowing others into your home. You may also ask your healthcare provider for advice regarding your specific situation.
How can I find accurate, up to date information?
As the pandemic progresses, health experts are learning more and more each day about COVID-19. To stay up to date on the latest information surrounding COVID-19 and pregnancy, check the CDC website regularly.
After reading all of that, …take a deep breath and remember that you will bring a sweet new baby into the world soon. Get some sleep while you still can, focus on keeping yourself healthy, and remember to wash your hands!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/pregnancy-breastfeeding.html. Accessed 20 June 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronavirus Disease 2019: protect yourself. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html. Accessed 20 June 2020.