How can COVID-19 affect a fetus?
Remember that researchers are learning more about COVID-19 all the time. Some researchers are looking specifically at COVID-19 and its possible effects on a fetus. Here’s what they know now:
- Researchers have found a few cases of COVID-19 that may have passed to a fetus during pregnancy, but this seems to be rare.
- Researchers have studied COVID-19 infection, preterm birth, and stillbirth. Some studies suggest there may be an increased risk of preterm birth and stillbirth for women with COVID-19. Other studies have not found this to be true. But information is still limited. Researchers are continuing to study these outcomes to better understand the effects of COVID-19 before birth.
What should pregnant women do to avoid the coronavirus?
Pregnant women should take steps to stay healthy, including:
- Keeping your prenatal care visits
- Limiting contact with other people as much as possible
- Staying at least 6 feet away from other people if you need to go out
- Wearing a mask or cloth face covering in public and any other needed protection while at work
- Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Cleaning hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if you can’t wash them (rub until your hands feel dry)
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Having a good stock of essential supplies, including at least 30 days of any medications (so you don’t have to go out as often)
Why are face coverings important?
The CDC says all people, including pregnant women, can wear a cloth face covering or mask when they are in public to slow the spread of COVID-19. Face coverings are recommended because studies have shown that people can spread the virus before showing any symptoms. See the CDC’s tips on making and wearing a face covering.
Wearing a cloth face covering or mask is most important in places where you may not be able to stay 6 feet away from other people, like a grocery store or pharmacy. It also is important in parts of the country where COVID-19 is spreading quickly. But you should still try to stay at least 6 feet away from others whenever you leave home.
If you have COVID-19 or think you may have it, you should wear a mask while you are around other people. You also should wear a mask if you are taking care of someone who has COVID-19 or has symptoms. You do not need to wear a surgical mask or medical-grade mask (N95 mask).
How will COVID-19 affect prenatal and postpartum care visits?
It is important to keep your prenatal and postpartum care visits. Call your obstetrician–gynecologist (ob-gyn) or other health care professional to ask how your visits may be changed. Some women may have fewer or more spaced out in-person visits. You also may talk more with your health care team over the phone or through an online video call. This is called telemedicine or telehealth. It is a good way for you to get the care you need while preventing the spread of disease.
If you have a visit scheduled, your care team’s office may call you ahead of time. They may tell you about telemedicine or make sure you do not have symptoms of COVID-19 if you are going in to the office. You also can call them before your visits if you do not hear from them.
How can I stay physically healthy right now?
Pregnant women can stay healthy by following the usual recommendations during pregnancy, including:
- Eating healthy meals (see Nutrition During Pregnancy).
- Exercising regularly (see Exercise During Pregnancy, though be mindful to stay at home or away from other people while exercising).
- Getting plenty of sleep.
- Avoiding alcohol and drugs (see Tobacco, Alcohol, Drugs, and Pregnancy).
How can I manage stress, anxiety, and depression?
Some pregnant and postpartum women may be feeling fear, uncertainty, stress, or anxiety because of COVID-19. Reaching out to friends and family during this time may help. Phone calls, texts, and online chats are safe ways to stay connected.
There also are treatment and support resources you can access over the phone or online. Talk with your ob-gyn or other health care professional about how to get help if you’re having symptoms like these:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, worthless, or helpless
- Having fear or worry, which may cause a fast heartbeat
- Feeling that life is not worth living
- Having repeated, scary, and unwanted thoughts that are hard to get rid of
If you are in crisis or feel like you want to harm yourself or others, call 911 right away. See the Resources section for other support options, including helplines you can text or call and online support groups for pregnant and postpartum women.
Physical activity also may help your mental health. And it may be useful to focus on your breathing each day, especially if you are feeling anxious. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and breathe out for 8 seconds. Repeat three times.
Can I travel if I am pregnant?
The CDC is updating travel recommendations often. See the CDC’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel page for the latest updates.
Other travel recommendations may be in place globally or locally as the virus continues to spread. Check with your local or state health department for information about travel in your area.
What should I do if I am pregnant and diagnosed with COVID-19?
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, follow the advice from the CDC and your ob-gyn or other health care professional. The current CDC advice for all people with COVID-19 includes the following:
- Stay home except to get medical care. Avoid public transportation.
- Speak with your health care team over the phone before going to their office. Get medical care right away if you feel worse or think it’s an emergency.
- Separate yourself from other people in your home.
- Wear a face mask when you are around other people and when you go to get medical care.
How many visitors can I have during and after birth?
Check with your hospital or birth center. They may limit the number of visitors to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The number of visitors you can have may depend on local and state recommendations and how quickly COVID-19 is spreading in your area.
Some hospitals and birth centers may consider doulas to be visitors. Check the hospital or birth center policy if you are planning to have a doula with you.
Would a home birth be safer while COVID-19 is spreading?
ACOG believes that the safest place for you to give birth is still a hospital, hospital-based birth center, or accredited freestanding birth center. COVID-19 has not changed this recommendation. Even the healthiest pregnancies can have problems arise with little or no warning during labor and delivery. If problems happen, a hospital setting can give you and your baby the best care in a hurry. Keep in mind that hospitals, hospital-based birth centers, and accredited freestanding birth centers follow strict procedures to clean and control infection.
Where will my baby stay after delivery if I have COVID-19?
There are many benefits to having your baby stay in the same room as you after delivery, even if you have COVID-19. For example, rooming together may help you bond with your baby and help you start breastfeeding if desired.
You also may choose for your baby to stay separated from you, such as in the hospital nursery. But current reports suggest that the risk of a baby getting COVID-19 does not change based on whether the baby stays in the mother’s room or in a separate room. (See “How can I avoid passing COVID-19 to my baby?”) If you room together, the baby’s crib may be kept at least 6 feet away from you. Some facilities use clear plastic cribs that are enclosed and keep an even temperature.
Staying in a separate room may be encouraged if you are very sick or your baby is at a high risk of getting very sick. If you choose to be separated and you plan to breastfeed, you can ask for a breast pump and use it to express (pump) milk. This will allow someone who is not sick to bottle-feed breast milk to your baby. Pumping also may help you maintain your milk supply for when you begin breastfeeding.
Talk with your health care team about the options at your hospital or birth center well before your due date. Together you can discuss what you think is right for you and your baby. Be sure to talk about the best ways to:
- Reduce the risk of infection for your baby
- Support the long-term health of you and your baby
- Help you start breastfeeding if desired
Can COVID-19 pass to a baby through breast milk?
Researchers are still learning if COVID-19 can pass through breast milk and cause infection in the baby. Most information shows that it is safe to feed breast milk to your baby when you have COVID-19. Remember that breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most babies. Breast milk also helps protect babies from infections, including infections of the ears, lungs, and digestive system. For these reasons, having COVID-19 should not stop you from giving your baby breast milk.
If you plan to breastfeed, talk with your ob-gyn or other health care professional. Make your wishes known so that you can begin to express milk or breastfeed before you take your baby home.
How can I avoid passing COVID-19 to my baby?
While you are in the hospital or birth center and after you go home, you should take the following steps to avoid passing the infection to your baby:
- Use a face mask or covering when holding your baby, including during feeding. Do not put a mask or covering over the baby’s face.
- Wash your hands before touching your baby. See the CDC’s handwashing tips.
- Wash your hands before touching any breast pump or bottle parts and clean all pump and bottle parts after use. See the CDC’s advice for cleaning a breast pump.
- If possible, let someone who is healthy help care for your newborn. They can bottle-feed your breast milk to your baby after you pump. They should wear a mask and keep their hands clean. And they should not be at risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
What should I do if I could be exposed to COVID-19 at work?
Tell your employer if you are pregnant or if you have a health condition that may put you at higher risk. People with some health conditions, such as diabetes mellitus, lung disease, heart disease, and obesity, have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Talk with your employer about how you can stay safe while doing your job. Ask if remote work is possible. If remote work is not possible, and you work in a job with a high risk of exposure to COVID-19, ask your employer if you can switch to a role with lower exposure risk.
No matter what your job is, your employer should follow guidelines from the CDC and state and local health departments. These guidelines can help reduce the risk of infection for employees. If there is a chance you could be exposed to the virus at work, ask your employer about masks, gloves, and other equipment that can help protect you.
If you aren’t given the protection you need, tell your ob-gyn or other health care professional. Together you should talk about how you can discuss your safety with your employer.
I want to get pregnant. Should I wait because of COVID-19?
Pregnancy is a personal choice. It may help to think about your health and the potential risks of COVID-19. You and your ob-gyn or other health care professional should talk about the latest research on possible increased risk of severe illness during pregnancy. You also should talk about taking steps to prevent exposure to COVID-19 during pregnancy.
Research does not show that pregnant women are at an increased risk of death from COVID-19. But current reports suggest that pregnant women may have a higher risk for more severe illness from COVID-19 than nonpregnant women. And pregnant women with some health conditions, such as gestational diabetes and obesity, may have an even higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Also, there are some reports that COVID-19 may have passed from a woman to her baby during pregnancy or delivery, but this seems to be rare.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): A hub for the latest information on what everyone needs to know about the coronavirus and COVID-19.
- Pregnancy & Breastfeeding: More information about COVID-19, pregnancy, and breastfeeding.
- Prevent Getting Sick: Learn how the virus spreads and how to protect yourself and your family.
- If You Are Sick: Guidance on what to do if you have COVID-19 or think you may have it.
- Travel: Frequently asked questions for travelers and travel notices for each country.