If you’re pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, you may be concerned about how infection with the coronavirus (also called COVID-19) may affect your pregnancy.
Can COVID-19 Cause Health Problems During Pregnancy?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other experts don’t yet know whether COVID-19 infection causes pregnancy complications or affects a baby’s health following birth.
There has been only a small number of cases reported in medical literature so far, and in some of those cases women hospitalized with COVID-19 had to give birth prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy). However, it’s not clear whether those complications were directly linked to the effect of the virus that causes COVID-19. Most reports have focused on women infected during later pregnancy and data on COVID-19 effects in early pregnancy are unavailable at this point.
Can COVID-19 be Passed from Mom to Baby During Pregnancy or Birth?
More research is needed to find out if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the coronavirus to her baby during pregnancy or birth. In recent studies, some babies born to mothers with COVID-19 have tested positive for COVID-19 infection in the days after birth. However, it’s not clear when the baby was infected. So far, no virus has been detected in samples of amniotic fluid, cord blood or breast milk.
Are Pregnant Women at Increased Risk of Getting Infected with COVID-19?
Experts don’t yet know if pregnant women are more likely to get infected with COVID-19 or have more serious health problems from COVID-19 infection than non-pregnant women their age. During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through changes that may increase her risk of complications from some, but not all, infections. For example, it is known that pregnant women are more likely to develop severe illness following infection with other coronaviruses (SARS and MERS) and the flu. Since we don’t yet know if the same is true for COVID-19, pregnant women can take steps to help protect themselves from becoming infected with COVID-19.
How can Pregnant Women Protect Themselves from COVID-19?
If you’re pregnant, these tips can help you protect yourself from infection:
- Practice physical distancing
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cover your cough.
- Wash your hands often using soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially if you’ve been in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Take advantage of virtual care visits with health care providers, if available.
Is it Safe to Breastfeed if a Mom is Infected or may be Infected with COVID-19?
Breast milk is the best food for most babies, but moms who have or may have COVID-19 infection should review their individual breastfeeding risks and benefits with their health care providers.
If the healthcare provider and the mom decide that use of breast milk is advised, a mom with confirmed COVID-19 infection or who has symptoms of COVID-19 infection (coughing, fever or trouble breathing) should take steps to avoid spreading the virus to her baby. If possible, a person who is healthy can feed expressed breast milk to the baby to help prevent spread of infection.
To help prevent the spread of infection, a mom can wash her hands before touching her baby and wear a face mask during breastfeeding and caring for a baby. If expressing breast milk with a manual or electric breast pump, she should wash her hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and follow steps for proper pump cleaning after each use.