What should I know about COVID-19 and pregnancy?
Although the effects of COVID-19 in pregnancy have not been widely studied, coronaviruses (COVID-19) do not appear to cause miscarriages or birth defects. More importantly, pregnant patients who contract a COVID-19 infection do not appear to have more complications of pregnancy. However, because pregnant women experience changes in their bodies that may increase their risk of some infections, it is always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illness.
What precautions should I take as a pregnant mother?
The most important place to start is to practice social distancing, frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, disinfect surfaces frequently, and avoid anyone who is ill. To make this easier, obstetricians are implementing new ways to provide care (through virtual care visits that involve two-way audio and video communication with your provider) designed to provide safe, high-quality prenatal care.
How might my prenatal care change?
The goal is to reduce the number of routine in-person visits during pregnancy and thereby reduce the chance for you to be exposed to COVID-19. Exactly how this could change your prenatal care will differ by clinicians and your individual needs.
Virtual visits are replacing many routine visits, and the remaining in-person visits are scheduled at critical points in the pregnancy to ensure the best care for mother and baby. Patients may also be asked to check their own blood pressures at home and report those readings to the care team.
Will I still be able to have my same birth plan?
During labor or a scheduled Cesarean section, the goal is also to prevent the patient from coming into contact with COVID-19 viruses. Smaller hospitals are developing protocols for providers, caregivers and staff in order to prevent the introduction and spread of disease while larger hospitals are organizing teams of providers that will provide care for pregnant COVID-19 patients.
In some facilities, obstetricians rotate in shifts to provide hospital-based care to all patients on the unit, regardless of who the patient's primary physician is. This is yet another way to decrease the risk of exposure to patients and other providers in the hospital. Talk to your provider about how your delivery might change based on the model that has been established at the facility where you will deliver.
Can I still have someone with me when I deliver?
Most facilities are still allowing one labor support person to be with the patient, but these guidelines are largely dependent on location and facility. With very few exceptions, families and visitors are also being restricted from hospitals due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Talk to your provider to understand the policy at the facility where you will deliver.
What happens if I need to be induced before my delivery date?
Because of the need to ensure the health and safety of our infants, non-medically necessary early elective deliveries prior to 39 weeks’ gestation are continuing to be avoided. Purely elective induced deliveries after 39 weeks can continue to be scheduled in order to maximize a hospital’s ability to provide appropriate staffing. Many facilities are also looking at early discharges, when appropriate. Please talk to your provider.
What can I expect in terms of postpartum care?
Some scheduled postpartum visits may be virtual unless there is a specific situation or problem that requires an in-person visit. This is to decrease the risk of exposure of mother and baby to COVID-19.
Can I still breastfeed?
Unless you are known or being investigated for COVID-19, breastfeeding should not be impacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are known or suspected of being infected you should pump until transmission precautions are lifted. While pumping you should use a mask and practice handwashing. Once precautions are lifted for you, you can breastfeed normally.