We’re all asking a lot of questions about COVID-19 and how to prevent and treat coronavirus. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, chances are your worries are heightened. There are still many unknowns, but here are the current recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG).
Pregnancy and Coronavirus
The CDC does not currently know if pregnant women have a greater chance of getting sick from COVID-19 than the general public, or if they are likely to get sicker than the general public.
The CDC’s website states, “With viruses from the same family as COVID-19, and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, women have had a higher risk of developing severe illness, so it does make sense to take precautions against getting sick.”
The CDC also states that women who are pregnant should exercise the same caution as the general public to avoid infection and help mitigate the spread of COVID-19:
- Cover your cough (using your elbow is a good technique)
- Avoid people who are sick
- Clean your hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
The WHO adds that you should avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and, if you find that you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, seek medical care early. As we’re all being instructed these days, call before going to a health facility, and be sure to abide by the direction of your local health authority.
The CDC does not yet know if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the virus that causes COVID-19 to her fetus or baby during pregnancy or delivery. However, you may take comfort in knowing that no infants born to mothers with COVID-19 have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Additionally, in these cases (which the CDC notes is still a small number), the virus was not found in samples of amniotic fluid or breastmilk.
Do I Have to Change My Birth Plan because of Coronavirus?
Coming up on your due date? Be sure to have a frank conversation with your OB-GYN and hospital prior to the big day. Ask about any changes in policies and walk through your birth plan scenario. When you understand what to expect, it can be less scary.
The CDC and ACOG still assure moms that, currently, the safest place for you to give birth is at a hospital, hospital-based birth center, or accredited freestanding birth center. Even the healthiest pregnancies can have problems arise with little or no warning during labor and delivery. If problems occur, a hospital setting can give you and your baby the best care in a hurry.
What Should I Know about Delivery if I Have COVID-19?
If you have a confirmed case of COVID-19 or are pending a result from a coronavirus test, plan to notify your doctor or hospital prior to arrival so the facility can make appropriate preparations (e.g., identifying the most appropriate room for labor and delivery, ensuring infection prevention and control supplies and PPE are available) before you arrive.
To reduce the risk of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 from mother to newborn, hospitals may consider temporarily separating a mother who has confirmed COVID-19 (or is suspected of having the virus) from her to reduce the risk of transmission to the child.
We know that this is a very scary topic and encourage you to read more about the CDC’s position and recommendations here so that you are 100 percent informed before giving birth. The WHO has a somewhat different opinion on the topic, which you can find on the organization’s FAQ page.
During temporary separation, mothers who plan to breastfeed will be encouraged to pump breast milk to establish and maintain milk supply.
Can I Breastfeed if I Have COVID-19?
Once again – there aren’t a lot of answers. In limited studies from breastfeeding COVID-19 patients and from past studies of mothers with SARS-CoV, the virus has not been detected in breast milk. However, at this time, the CDC does not know for certain whether mothers with COVID-19 can transmit the virus via breast milk.
What we do know is this: breast milk gives babies protection against many illnesses, and it’s also is the best source of nutrition for most babies. The CDC states, “Whether and how to start or continue breastfeeding should be determined by the mother in coordination with her family and healthcare providers.”
The CDC continues, “A mother with confirmed COVID-19 or who is a symptomatic PUI should take all possible precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant, including washing her hands before touching the infant and wearing a face mask, if possible, while feeding at the breast.”
Mothers with Coronavirus who choose to use a breast pump – whether exclusively or as a supplement to breastfeeding – should wash their hands before touching any pump or bottle parts. After pumping, all parts that come into contact with breast milk should be thoroughly washed and the entire pump should be appropriately disinfected per the manufacturer’s instructions.
If possible, this expressed breast milk should be fed to the newborn by a healthy caregiver.
Our scientists are learning more about COVID-19 every day. Use the links below to keep current on CDC, WHO and ACOG recommendations for pregnant women and moms who are breastfeeding.