History of Reproduction 5

COVID-19 and Pregnancy

What you need to know if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

This webpage includes information on several topics related to COVID-19 and pregnancy, respectively covering the vulnerability of pregnant women, risks for the (un)born baby, baby immunity and the way in which COVID-19 may affect hospital visits. At the bottom of each category there is a link you can click for explanations and references. These Q&As have last been updated 14 June 2020.

Every day new information is being published on COVID-19. Because the first case of COVID-19 was only reported in December 2019, data on women who have given birth after becoming infected during their pregnancy is still limited. If you still have questions after reading this information, please go to your government’s website, ask your general practitioner or contact another healthcare provider.

 

In addition to this webpage, you can also download and consult this leaflet for a concise summary of the most essential information:

Are pregnant women more vulnerable for COVID-19 than non-pregnant women?

Understandably, many women (and their partners, family members and friends) are currently asking this question. Perhaps you are worried for yourself or a pregnant friend, or maybe you are planning a pregnancy and want to know more beforehand. We will try to answer this question as well as possible, based on the current evidence:

  1. We will outline what is known about vulnerability to any viral infection in pregnancy. 
  2. What we know about the severity of COVID-19 in pregnancy will be described.
  3. Current government policies and clinical advice with regards to pregnancy and vulnerable groups will be discussed.

1. Do pregnant women have an increased risk of getting infected by viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 (that causes COVID-19)?

Pregnant women do not appear to have a higher risk of getting infected with respiratory viruses than non-pregnant women, although some infections may have more severe consequences.

2. Is the course of COVID-19 more severe in pregnant women compared to non-pregnant women?

So far, pregnancy does not appear to increase the risk of getting severe COVID-19.

3. Does your government consider pregnant women to be vulnerable/high risk?

Guidance in each country varies depending on the stage of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as local health care systems.

Can COVID-19 be passed on to my (un)born child?

Pregnant mothers who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 are concerned that they may transmit the viral infection to their baby during pregnancy or after birth. After birth, there is a risk the virus can be transmitted during breastfeeding or normal care, but this risk can be minimized with simple precautions. Reassuringly, most babies do not seem to suffer serious symptoms if infection does occur.

1. What is the risk my baby gets COVID-19 during pregnancy or childbirth?

Pregnant women do not appear to be at high risk of passing on SARS-CoV-2 to their unborn child, but because this a relatively new virus, we only have good data for women who have been infected later in their pregnancy.

2. Can my baby get COVID-19 if I breastfeed?

Breast milk appears to contain negligible levels of SARS-CoV-2 so provided normal hygiene is followed, risks are low. The appropriate hygiene for the expression of breast milk needs to be practiced, such as disinfection of hands, breasts and wearing surgical masks.

3. What are the consequences for partners, midwives and medical staff for mothers who test positive?

Because of the risk of spreading SARS-CoV-2 in hospitals, all normal precautions should be taken to prevent infection of other hospital uses and staff. Pregnant women going into labor and admitted to the hospital need to be tested for COVID-19.

Is my baby immune if I have had COVID-19?

1. What is immunity against COVID-19?

While immunity against COVID-19 might occur by developing cell mediated immune responses and antibodies, it is currently unclear whether a one time infection and subsequent development of an immune response prevents a future reinfection with COVID-19.

2. Is this immunity transmitted to the children of mothers who had been affected by COVID-19 during pregnancy?

While there is evidence that antibodies may be transferred to newborns from infected mothers during pregnancy and through breastfeeding, we have no information about whether these provide immunity to the newborns.

How will COVID-19 affect my hospital visits and prenatal services?

With the extensive news coverage, it is easy to get worried about the danger of visiting hospitals. Perhaps you are worried for yourself or a pregnant friend, or maybe you are planning a pregnancy and want to know more beforehand. Based on current evidence and guidelines, we will outline how COVID-19 may affect your hospital visits and prenatal services. In short, you can be reassured your hospital will ensure the best and safest care possible.

1. Am I putting myself and my baby at risk by going to the hospital?

Current evidence suggests that it is not more risky for pregnant women and their babies to visit hospitals than for other people.

2. How will COVID-19 affect my hospital visits?

Checkups, scans and other appointments will likely be affected by COVID-19 in some way. It is advisable to directly discuss this with your healthcare professional.

3. How will COVID-19 affect my antenatal classes?

There are many online services available online antenatal classes and counselling.

4. How will COVID-19 affect my delivery?

In short: your healthcare professional will ensure you can deliver under the best and safest circumstances possible. Current guidelines suggest that provided proper infection controls are in place at least one person can be present with you during labour.