Coronavirus Pregnancy Q&A

During this time, you may have concerns about the coronavirus and how it can impact your health and the health of your baby. Here are some answers to questions you may have.

Am I at greater risk for the coronavirus because I’m pregnant?
While there is no evidence to suggest that women who are pregnant are at increased risk for getting the coronavirus (COVID-19), women are considered to be immunocompromised during pregnancy and are known to be at greater risk for other respiratory infections, such as the flu. To protect yourself and your baby, follow the CDC prevention guidelines, including practicing good hand hygiene and social distancing.

How can I protect myself and my baby from the coronavirus?
The most important step in protecting yourself and your baby from this and any other infection is to practice healthy habits:

  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Alcohol-based hand cleaners with at least 60 percent alcohol are also effective if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, mouth and nose.
  • Stay home as much as possible, and if you must go out, practice social distancing. It’s safe to go out for walks — just try to remain at least six feet away from anyone who doesn’t live with you. Also, be sure to wear a cloth facial mask (covering your mouth and nose) as recommended by the CDC.
  • If you have a mild cough or cold, stay at home and limit exposures to others.
  • Sneeze and cough into a tissue that you discard immediately, or into your elbow, to avoid making others sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched items and surfaces, such as countertops and doorknobs.
  • Drink fluids and get adequate rest to help maintain the health of your immune system.

I’m considered an essential employee. Is it safe for me to go to work?
There are no specific guidelines, but if you cannot work from home remotely, try to limit your exposure to others if your job permits, and wear a face mask. Healthcare workers who are pregnant should follow infection control guidelines and wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE). If you are worried about your risk of exposure to COVID-19, discuss your concerns with your employer. Together, see if you’re able to make arrangements to limit your direct contact with others.

What should I do if I’m experiencing symptoms?
Symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, lack of taste, lack of smell, cough and trouble breathing.

  • If you have symptoms, call your OB or primary care physician. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may need testing.
  • If you are instructed to seek medical care at your doctor’s office or the hospital, you should wear a mask or ask to have one available for one when you arrive. Call ahead and let the staff know that you have symptoms right away.
  • If your symptoms are mild, you’ll likely be sent home with instructions to self-quarantine and treat yourself as if you have the flu.
  • If you start to have trouble breathing, contact your OB immediately. If you can’t reach him/her, go to the nearest Emergency Room.

Will there be any changes to my prenatal care?
It is very important that you keep in contact with your doctor’s office and follow their advice to help ensure that you and your baby are healthy. You should continue routine prenatal care, and some options to do that include:

  • Telehealth visits, which are check-up visits via video without coming into the office. You’ll need to do more self-care, and your home pharmacy should ideally include:
    • A glucose monitor to watch for gestational diabetes
    • A blood pressure machine and urine test strips to screen for pregnancy-induced hypertension, the most common life-threatening complication of pregnancy
    • Talk to your provider about how to use these items, how frequently they should be used and what to look out for.
  • For those whose pregnancy is considered to be high-risk, a combination of telehealth visits and in-office visits will help you not being at the office as frequently without compromising safety.
  • Testing, such as ultrasounds, will still take place if needed.

If I’m pregnant and have the coronavirus, can I pass it to my baby?
Currently it’s unclear if COVID-19 can be passed to the fetus, but the risk appears to be very low.

Infants born to mothers with confirmed COVID-19 will be evaluated by pediatricians to monitor their health, as is traditionally done for all newborns. Arrangements should be made at home to help prevent the transmission of the virus to the baby until the illness improves in the mother and/or any other members living in the home.

What is Stony Brook University Hospital doing to ensure my safety when I come to the hospital to deliver my baby?
In the hospital, many precautions are being taken to minimize exposure risks. If you choose to do so, it may be possible to go home sooner than you normally would after birth, as long as you are feeling well, and your birth was uncomplicated.

You can have one support person with you during labor and delivery and following the birth of your baby. They will be screened before entering all Women’s Health units in the hospital and need to remain with you at all times. If you are in the hospital for several days, your support person may leave and return the next day with rescreening.

Also, all support people will receive:

  • Temperature checks every 12 hours
  • A mask, which must be worn at all times, unless eating or drinking. Those who will not, or cannot wear a mask, will be asked to leave.
  • If visitors display any symptoms, they will be rescreened and asked to leave if they screen positive. Then, you can select a different support person to be with you.

Should I change my birth plan because of the virus?
Delivering at the hospital is still the safest place for you and your baby. All employees, patients and visitors are being screened for symptoms of COVID-19 and must wear a mask at all times. It is more likely you will be exposed to the virus in your community than at the hospital.

The decision to plan a home birth should not be a last-minute decision. There can be safety issues that may occur, such as an emergency that will not allow the patient to get the assistance that they need that a hospital can provide. Only low-risk patients who have had uncomplicated pregnancies are candidates for a home birth. You also want a certified midwife who has a contingency plan at a hospital they are affiliated with if there are problems.

Can I breastfeed?
Breast milk gives babies protection against many illnesses. It also is the best source of nutrition for most babies. While there has been no evidence of virus found in the breast milk of women infected with COVID-19, it is not yet known if COVID-19 can be transmitted through breast milk.

The primary concern is not whether the virus can be transmitted through breast milk, but rather whether a mother who is infected with COVID-19 can transmit the virus through respiratory droplets during breastfeeding.

If you are confirmed with or suspected of having COVID-19 and plan to breastfeed, you should take all possible precautions to avoid spreading the virus to your infant, including washing your hands before touching your baby and wearing a face mask while breastfeeding. Lactation consultants are also available to provide telehealth visits about breastfeeding.

If you are expressing breast milk with a manual or electric breast pump, you should also wash your hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use. If possible, consider having someone who is well feed the expressed breast milk to the infant.

Whether or not you plan to breastfeed, here’s something you can do ahead of time, lactation consultants suggest: Contact your doctor and insurer to order a pump, a covered benefit for most new moms, so you have it on hand when the time comes. And be extra vigilant about keeping it clean.

For more information about coronavirus and pregnancy, call Stony Brook’s Coronavirus Pregnancy Hotline at (631) 444-8940, or contact your healthcare provider.