Mar 17, 2020 Pregnancy and COVID-19

Pregnancy and COVID-19

Richard C. Miller, MD, FACOG, Chair of Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Rutgers – New Jersey Medical School

Are pregnant women more at risk of getting COVID-19?

The transmission rate to pregnant women appears to be no higher than the general population.

If a pregnant woman becomes infected, will she be sicker than other people? Experience more severe complications?

In a limited number of pregnant patients in China, they did not appear to have any more severe symptoms than the general population. However, this observation is based on a very small number of patients. If we extend what we see with influenza and other respiratory viruses in pregnant women, they may have a higher risk of complications. We do not have enough evidence for clear guidance at this point. Based on other viral illnesses in pregnancy, pregnant women may be at high risk for complications with a COVID-19 infection. They should practice social distancing as recommended for other high-risk groups.

Can COVID-19 be passed from mother to the fetus?

In a limited number of infected pregnant patients in China, there was no evidence of the COVID-19 virus in amniotic fluid or umbilical cord blood, suggesting that there may not be vertical (mother to fetus) transmission of the virus. However, this information is still minimal and we cannot give an absolute answer at this time.

If a woman has COVID-19 during pregnancy, will it hurt the baby?

It is unknown right now what the risk is for babies of a pregnant woman who has COVID-19. There may be pregnancy problems, such as preterm labor, in mothers who are ill with COVID-19. However, it is unclear if these outcomes were related to maternal infection.

Can COVID-19 be passed to baby via breast milk?

In the limited number of COVID-19 cases studied in China, the breast milk of infected mothers did not appear have any of the viral particles. The significant risk of transmission for everybody is by respiratory droplets and an infectious mother could transmit that to a newborn through respiratory contact. At present, mothers who have the COVID-19 infection and are well enough can continue to breastfeed. However, they must thoroughly wash their hands and use a face mask before handling the baby or beginning to breastfeed. And, mothers should clean the breast with soap and water immediately prior to breastfeeding. Alternatively, they may use a breast pump, especially if significantly ill, and use appropriate hand washing and disinfecting of the devices before pumping.

How can pregnant women protect themselves from getting COVID-19?

Pregnant women should be doing the same things that everyone else is doing to avoid catching and/or spreading COVID-19, including:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds or more
  • If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Stay home especially if you are sick
  • Avoid contact with people, especially those who are sick
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and then discard the tissue
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe
  • Exercise appropriate social distancing as recommended for high-risk groups

What is RWJBarnabas Health doing to care for mothers infected with COVID-19?

Across all RWJBarnabas Health hospitals, arrangements have been made to provide a safe labor and delivery for women who might be infected with COVID-19 or are under investigation for infection of COVID-19. To ensure the best possible care and protection for the rest of our patient population, we have isolated rooms set up for women who potentially have an infection or who have been in contact with somebody who has an infection. Infected or exposed patients will be appropriately triaged. They will be able to deliver their babies in a safe environment separate from our general population.

Is it safe to deliver my baby in a hospital now since there are cases of COVID-19 there?

Yes. We have taken all necessary precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19. Visitor restrictions, screening measures and rigorous safety protocols have been implemented and we are following the CDC guidelines and infection control practices to keep our patients, their families and babies safe.

What are the visitation guidelines for the Maternity and Labor & Delivery Units?

The safety and well-being of our patients, visitors and staff is our number one priority. Please be aware of the following newly revised guidelines before visiting one of our hospitals or health care facilities:

  • NO VISITORS WILL BE ALLOWED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE in every RWJBarnabas Health hospital and health care facility, including Behavioral Health and Outpatient facilities.

Exceptions may be made in certain circumstances, including in Maternity and Labor & Delivery units where one significant other/support person can visit and in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units where two parents/support persons can visit.