COVID-19 and pregnancy: What you need to know

If you or a loved one is pregnant, we understand that you probably have a lot of questions about COVID-19 and how it impacts your pregnancy and birth plan.

Kelly Helms, MD, an OB/GYN and independent member of the HonorHealth medical staff, provides answers to some of the most common questions she’s hearing from patients and families.

Q. What is COVID-19, and how does it spread?

A: COVID-19 is a type of virus in the coronavirus family. Although we are still learning about this specific virus, COVID-19 seems to spread between people with close contact via droplets. Droplets come from an infected person coughing, sneezing or talking. They are dispersed and land in an uninfected person's nose, mouth or eyes. It may also spread if an uninfected person touches an infected surface and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes.

Q. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

A: Symptoms can range from mild to severe illness within 2-14 days of becoming infected. Symptoms include fever (greater than 100.0 F), cough, chest discomfort or shortness of breath that is out of the ordinary for you. Some patients will experience diarrhea, headaches, and few have reported a loss of smell and/or taste.

Q. Are pregnant women more likely to become infected with COVID-19?

A: At present, there does not seem to be an increased risk for contracting COVID-19 or it causing severe illness if you are pregnant. The influenza virus and other types of coronavirus are more likely to infect and cause severe illness in pregnancy, but we haven’t seen this with COVID-19.

Q. How will the coronavirus affect me while I am pregnant?

A: If you are pregnant and experience fever and/or body aches, shortness of breath or new-onset cough, you should call your obstetrician. Depending on the severity of your illness, you may or may not be recommended to stay home and self-quarantine while treating your symptoms with over-the-counter medications. If you have severe illness, you may need to be admitted to the hospital for management of your symptoms.

Q. Does the coronavirus affect my unborn baby?

A: Although we have limited information about this virus, at this time there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be passed from mother to baby through the placenta. Additionally, there has not been any evidence that the virus causes fetal abnormalities. In China, babies born to mothers who tested positive for COVID-19 were negative for the virus.

Q. What over-the-counter medications can I take for symptoms associated with coronavirus while I am pregnant?

A: For mild symptoms, it is safe to take several over-the-counter medications in pregnancy. For symptoms of fevers, chills or body aches, it is safe to take acetaminophen. One gram of acetaminophen (two 500mg tablets) every six hours can help decrease a fever. If you have a cough, cough syrups are safe in pregnancy. For congestion or runny nose, anti-allergy medications like fluticasone propionate, cetirizine, guaifenesin and fexofenadine or other anti-allergy medications can help alleviate symptoms and are also safe for use in pregnancy.

Q. Can I breast feed if I am positive for COVID-19?

A: Yes, you can breast feed if you test positive for COVID-19. However, transmission of the virus from mother to baby will occur because of the physical closeness that occurs during breast feeding. Breast milk remains the best source of nutrition and protection against illnesses. It is recommended that mothers who test positive for COVID-19 use appropriate hygiene and hand-washing techniques while pumping their breast milk until 14 days after delivery.

Q. What is the current visitor policy for HonorHealth facilities? Is it different for labor and delivery and postpartum?

A: At this time, Honor Health does not allow any visitors within any part of the hospital. The only exception is labor and delivery and postpartum wards. Although this may change based on the community status of COVID-19, one support person is allowed into the labor and delivery and postpartum wards. One certified doula can accompany you until you move to the Couplet Care unit.

We recommend that appropriate plans are made ahead of time for the care of other children at home, as well as pets or other family members during your stay in the hospital. It is advised that the support person stay with the patient during the entire hospitalization. It is not recommended that your support person be going in and out of the hospital during your stay.

Q. Will I be tested for the coronavirus (COVID-19) when I go into labor?

A: If you are not having any symptoms of the coronavirus, you will not be tested. If you are experiencing symptoms when you arrive in labor, you will be tested for the coronavirus and appropriate precautions will be taken. In the event you are having a scheduled cesarean section (C-section) or you are being induced out of medical necessity in pregnancy, you may be required to get testing 2-3 days prior to your scheduled arrival. Your OB/GYN will discuss this with you.

Q. If I am pregnant, should I be going to work?

A: Yes, you can still work if you are pregnant. There are no specific recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control or the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists against pregnant women in the workforce during this pandemic. It is recommended that you strictly follow proper hand hygiene and avoid groups of people larger than 10.

Q. I am pregnant and a health care worker. Can I work with patients that are possibly infected with COVID-19?

A: Yes, you can work with patients that are possibly infected with COVID-19, but like all health care workers, pregnant health care workers should adhere to all current infection control guidelines within their health care facility. If you are able to avoid working with patients who are positive or suspected to be positive for COVID-19, that would be ideal, but in some cases that will not be possible.

Q. What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?

A: If you are pregnant and you think you have symptoms of the COVID-19 virus or you have been exposed to a known person with COVID-19, you should call your OB/GYN and report your symptoms. Additionally, HonorHealth has an obstetric triage hot line for pregnant women: 480-587-6200. A consultant will determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19. They will give you instructions as to where you should go for testing, if it is needed.

Q. Is it safer to deliver my baby at home during this pandemic?

A: We believe that delivery at a hospital is the safest place for you and your baby. Extensive precautions are taken to prevent the spread of the infection at HonorHealth. Our staff is trained on how to best prevent infection and safely support you and your baby through your labor. In the hospital setting, we are prepared to respond quickly to any complications that may arise with you or your baby during your labor. It is not advised to deliver your baby at home.

Note: This article was last reviewed on May 18, 2020. We will continue to update it as new information becomes available.

For the most current information

Our top priority is the health and safety of our patients, employees and visitors. HonorHealth is working closely with public health officials to stay up-to-date with the most current information and guidelines related to the Coronavirus. Visit our dedicated Coronavirus page for the latest information.

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