Are pregnant women at higher risk from COVID-19?

Research is currently underway to understand the impacts of COVID 19 infection on pregnant women. Data are limited, but at present there is no evidence that they are at higher risk of severe illness than the general population. However, due to changes in their bodies and immune systems, we know that pregnant women can be badly affected by some respiratory infections. It is therefore important that they take precautions to protect themselves against COVID-19, and report possible symptoms
(including fever, cough or difficulty breathing) to their healthcare provider.

I am pregnant, how can I protect myself against COVID-19?

Pregnant women should take the same precautions to avoid COVID-19 infection as other people. You can help protect yourself by:

  • Washing your hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
  • Keeping space between yourselves and others and avoiding crowded spaces.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Practising respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your elbow bent or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately

If you have fever, cough or difficulty breathing, seek medical care early. Call before going to a health facility and follow the directions of your local health authority. Pregnant women and women who have recently delivered – including those affected by COVID-19 - should attend their routine care appointments.

Should Pregnant women be tested for COVID-19?

WHO recommendations are that pregnant women with symptoms of COVID-19 should be prioritized for testing. If they have COVID-19, they may need specialized care.

Can COVID 19 be passed from a woman to her unborn or newborn baby?

Research is going on to find whether a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the virus to her foetus or baby during pregnancy or delivery. To date, the virus has not been found in samples of amniotic fluid or breast milk.

What care should be available during pregnancy and child birth?

All pregnant women, including those with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infections, have the right to high-quality care before, during and after childbirth. If COVID-19 is suspected or confirmed, health workers should take all appropriate precautions to reduce risks of infection to themselves and others, including hand hygiene, and appropriate use of protective clothing like gloves, gown and a medical mask.

Can woman with COVID-19 breastfeed?

Yes. Women with COVID-19 can breastfeed if they wish to do so. They should:

  • Practice respiratory hygiene during feeding, wearing a mask.
  • Wash hands before and after touching the baby.
  • Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces they have touched.

I am pregnant and a healthcare worker. Can I work with patients who are potentially infected with COVID-19?

Although the information is still limited, pregnant women do not appear to be at higher risk of severe disease related to COVID-19. Pregnant health care workers, like all health care workers, should be aware of and follow all updated infection control guidelines for their health care facilities to keep themselves and others safe in the health care environment. Some facilities may want to consider limiting exposure of pregnant health care personnel to patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19
infection, especially during higher-risk procedures (e.g, aerosol-generating procedures), if feasible, based on staffing availability.

In order to promote further physical distancing and reduce as much as possible the risk for symptoms of infection at the time of delivery, pregnant women may consider stopping work at 37 weeks or at an earlier point if based on their individual circumstances their obstetric provider feels that delivery is anticipated earlier.

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