What you need to know about coronavirus and pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding

What you need to know about coronavirus and pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding

pregnant woman with thermometer

Everywhere you turn, news and conversation are dominated by discussion of the coronavirus. But if you’re pregnant, you may be having a harder time figuring out what this all means to you, what you can do to help keep yourself and your baby healthy, and what it would mean for your birth or breastfeeding experience if you were to come down with COVID-19.

My first advice is to follow the words on the cover of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: DON’T PANIC. It’s still early for a full understanding of how this may all play out, but here’s what we know so far:


The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says, “…There currently are no recommendations specific to pregnant women regarding the evaluation or management of COVID-19…Based on limited data and case examples from previous coronaviruses (SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV) and a small number of COVID-19 cases, it is believed that pregnant women may be at higher risk of severe illness, morbidity, or mortality compared with the general population. Adverse infant outcomes (eg, preterm birth) also have been reported among infants born to mothers positive for COVID-19 during pregnancy. However, this information is based on limited data and it is not clear that these outcomes were related to maternal infection. Currently it is unclear if COVID-19 can cross through the transplacental route to the fetus. There have been a few unsubstantiated reports of infants testing positive for the virus shortly after birth, but validated data is required to understand how these infants were infected and whether or not the virus can be transmitted during pregnancy. In limited recent case series of infants born to mothers infected with COVID-19 published in the peer-reviewed literature, none of the infants have tested positive for COVID-19.”

CDC’s Frequently Asked Questions says, “We do not have information on adverse pregnancy outcomes in pregnant women with COVID-19. Pregnancy loss, including miscarriage and stillbirth, has been observed in cases of infection with other related coronaviruses [SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV] during pregnancy. High fevers during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the risk of certain birth defects.”

In other words, it’s not yet clear whether a pregnant person with the virus would pass it to the baby before birth. Want to find out how to reduce your chances of getting sick? Check out this fact sheet from the CDC.


If you are having a hospital birth, you may be screened for COVID-19 upon arrival. Anyone testing positive or under investigation for suspected COVID-19 would use a birth room airborne isolation control. Providers and support people would take measures such as wearing masks. At this time, it appears that different birthplaces may have different approaches as to whether babies would still room in with parents or whether they would need to be isolated. If you have questions about this, you should ask your provider about your local protocol. The CDC’s recommendation is separately isolating the baby rather than rooming in, but their guidance includes protocol for parents who still choose to room in. For more details, see this CDC guidance.

If you already know or suspect you have COVID-19 prior to your birth, please notify your provider and birthplace prior to your arrival.


So far, in the limited studies that are available, COVID-19 has not appeared in breastmilk, but it is not yet known for sure whether it might be transmissible through milk from someone with the infection. Breastmilk is excellent at providing babies protection against many diseases. There is no specific guidance for similar viruses requiring any change to the breastfeeding routine when a breastfeeding person is sick. At this point, CDC recommends that if a breastfeeding person is known or suspected to have COVID-19, that they consult with their healthcare provider to decide whether they need to change their breastfeeding plans. Precautions they may opt for to help reduce the risk of passing the infection to the infant may include handwashing before touching the infant and wearing a mask when breastfeeding.

If pumping, CDC recommends handwashing before expressing milk, then following recommendations for proper cleaning of the pump parts. If possible, another person may feed baby the pumped milk.

More information about breastfeeding and COVID-19 can be found here.

Note: The above does not constitute medical advice. Please refer to the sources linked in the article for full details and talk with your provider if you have any questions about your health.

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