Your COVID-19 questions answered: For expecting or new parents
The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a lot of stress and worry for all parents – expecting or new. The Mother Baby Center wants to be a resource for you to get all of your questions answered.
COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19? What should I do if I have COVID-19 symptoms?
Symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild to severe, and can include:
- Shortness of breath.
- Runny nose or nasal congestion.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Decreased sense of smell or taste.
If you think you have symptoms of COVID-19, please call your pregnancy care provider or primary care provider. Your provider will review your symptoms over the phone then recommend next steps: Staying home, going to a testing site or clinic for evaluation, or going to the emergency department.
If you have severe shortness of breath and need to see a health care provider, please call ahead then have someone drive you to the nearest clinic or emergency department.
If you are pregnant, we recommend following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These recommendations change often so, make sure to check back for updated information.
Are pregnant women at risk of getting COVID-19?
Yes; however, early data from China suggests that most pregnant women with COVID-19 do not become sicker than non-pregnant women with the illness. Because this is a new virus, health care providers are not yet certain that this is true for all cases.
We do know that pregnant women are more susceptible to other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza (the flu), the CDC predicts that pregnant women may experience more severe COVID-19 symptoms than the general population.
How can I protect myself from COVID-19 if I am pregnant?
As with the flu or any other virus, the best ways to help protect yourself from COVID-19 are to follow these simple steps:
- Wash your hands often with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Clean surfaces in your home with usual household cleaners and disinfectants.
- Try to stand 6 feet away from others, do not shake hands and avoid crowds.
- Cover your sneezes or coughs, and throw your tissues in the trash as soon as possible.
Will my baby be OK if I get COVID-19?
Because this is a new virus, there is not a lot of research on how COVID-19 might affect an unborn baby. At this time, it is unknown if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the virus to her baby during pregnancy or delivery. However, research has not found the virus in amniotic fluid or breastmilk.
A baby is more likely to get COVID-19 after delivery if they come in contact with respiratory droplets from their mother or another person with COVID-19.
According to the CDC, high fevers during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the risk of certain birth defects. Catching other viral respiratory infections, including the flu, during pregnancy is linked to preterm labor and low birth weight.
What prenatal care will I have during the COVID-19 outbreak?
Prenatal care includes many important routine visits, many of which cannot happen outside of the clinic or through virtual care.
If you are healthy and have a low-risk pregnancy, Allina Health offers prenatal visits at the following points in your pregnancy:
- 12 weeks: Your first prenatal visit is usually when you are 12 weeks pregnant. You will have an ultrasound to estimate your due date.
- 20 weeks.
- 28 weeks.
- 36 weeks.
- 38 weeks and then weekly until you deliver your baby.
If you need to be seen more often, your pregnancy care provider will talk about this with you.
If you receive prenatal care outside of Allina Health, contact your clinic or provider to learn what prenatal visits they offer at this time.
Your clinic will call you before your next scheduled visit to talk about any changes needed to your visit schedule due to COVID-19. There may be other options like telehealth, phone and online visits as well. Any non-essential visits will be cancelled.
To protect other people, no visitors may come with you to your prenatal visits.
If you need prenatal testing, your pregnancy care provider will schedule this for you.
During labor and birth
Can I bring a support person with me to the hospital?
You will be allowed to have one healthy support person with you. This support person can be your partner, a family member, a friend or a doula. Who you bring with to support you is entirely up to you.
How long can I labor at home before coming to the hospital?
Your care provider will review all necessary labor precautions with you in the last month of your pregnancy.
What are the risks of a home birth?
Hospital births provide the reassurance that emergent care is immediately available if you or your baby need additional care. Home births can have increased risks as the response to urgent needs, such as medical or surgical emergencies or resuscitation of your baby, can be delayed.
What will happen when I deliver my baby?
If you have COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19, you will be asked to put on a mask when you arrive at the hospital, and you will be cared for in a private room. Your health care team will also wear protective equipment.
COVID-19 will not change how you deliver your baby. Most women can have a vaginal birth, but a Cesarean birth can happen with any pregnancy. If you are planning to have a vaginal birth and you have a cough, you will be asked to wear a mask as much as you are able.
What will happen after my baby is born?
If you have COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19, your baby is at risk of getting the virus after birth. At this time, it is unclear how COVID-19 affects babies. Because of this, the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine recommend taking steps to help prevent your baby from getting infected.
While you are in the hospital, it’s recommended that you and your baby should be in separate rooms until you are no longer contagious.
- Your baby will have their own room.
- Your baby will be cared for by another healthy family member or nursing staff.
- Your baby will not have other visitors.
- Your baby can have breastmilk that you pump or express.
If you and your baby cannot be in separate rooms or you do not want this to happen, the recommendation is for you and your baby to “room-in", this is also known as co-location.
- Your baby will stay in the same room.
- Your baby will be separated from you by a distance of 6 feet.
- You can breastfeed your baby if you wash your hands, and wear a mask and clean gloves.
- A healthy family member will provide all other care for your baby.
This option may change depending on your health, room availability and the availability of another healthy family member.
If you have any questions about the separation, please talk with your health care team. This can be a difficult time, but your health care team is working hard to help reduce your baby’s exposure to COVID-19 while caring for you and your baby.
Will I be separated from my baby?
If you do not have symptoms of COVID -19, you will not be separated from your baby. If you have tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms consistent with the illness, it is possible that you may pass a virus to your baby. In this case, it is recommended that your baby is cared for in a separate room by a healthy caregiver, or that you remain at least 6 feet away from your baby until you are no longer contagious.
Will I catch COVID-19 at the hospital?
Hospital team members take every precaution to protect you and your baby from getting an infection while you are in our care. For this reason, you will see our staff wearing masks while they care for you and your baby. They will also wear gowns and gloves for more invasive procedures, such as delivery. Wearing protective equipment helps to protect you, your family and our staff members from COVID-19.
Can I breastfeed my baby if I have COVID-19?
If you have COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19, you may still pump or express your breastmilk to feed your baby. With that, the CDC and AAP recommend that a healthy caregiver feed the breastmilk to your baby with a bottle or another method.
When pumping or expressing breastmilk:
- Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
- Put on a mask and gloves.
- After you have pumped or expressed your breastmilk, pour it into the container provided.
- Wipe the surface where the container will be placed with an antibacterial wipe.
- Put a paper towel down on that surface and place the container on the paper towel.
- Label the breastmilk as directed by your nurse then place the container in the plastic bag provided.
You may store the breastmilk in the refrigerator in your room. When it is taken to your baby, your nurse will pass the breastmilk to another staff member outside the room. The container will be placed in a clean plastic bag and taken to your baby.
If you feel well and have only been exposed to COVID-19 or only have mild symptoms, you may be able to breastfeed your baby if you take special precautions to reduce exposing your baby to respiratory droplets.
If you choose to breastfeed your baby, it is important to:
- Keep your breasts clean and covered by your gown. If your breasts are exposed to respiratory droplets (from a cough or sneeze), take a shower or wash them with warm, soapy water.
- Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
- Put on a mask and gloves.
What do I need to know about breastfeeding at home?
If you have COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19, it is important to take special steps to reduce exposing your baby to the virus. This includes washing your hands and wearing a mask when possible for at least 5 to 7 days, or until your cough and respiratory droplets have improved.
If you are pumping or expressing breastmilk, wash your hands before touching any pump or bottle parts. Follow the manual instructions to clean the pump properly after each use. If possible, consider having someone who is healthy care for and feed the breastmilk to your baby.
If anyone has COVID-19, they should remain separated using home isolation precautions and should not interact with other family members in the house. This includes your baby, except for breastfeeding. Ideally, if there is a healthy adult in your house, they should care for your baby.
What will happen when it’s time to leave the hospital?
If you have COVID-19, you will be able to leave the hospital when you and your health care provider decide it is right for you.
If you are not ready to leave the hospital, but your baby is, they may be able to go home with a healthy caregiver. This caregiver will be given instructions on how to care for your baby.
When you are ready to leave the hospital, continue home isolation as directed by your health care provider.
Talk with your health care team about when you and your baby should have follow-up visits.
The Mother Baby Center is here for you and your baby.
Please give us a call at any time if you have questions or concerns about COVID-19.
More resources about COVID-19 and pregnancy:
- CDC: Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- American Academy of Pediatrics: FAQs: Management of Infants Born to Mothers with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19
- Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) hotline: 651-201-3920
- Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine statement on coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19)