April 2020
In this issue: Pregnant during a pandemic: pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding Q&A
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Pregnant during a pandemic: pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding Q&A

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus, meaning it’s new or never been seen before now. This leaves people with a lot of questions—and not always as many answers as they would like.     

Due to the newness of this coronavirus, there is limited research available about pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. Reports include small numbers of pregnant people and their babies, which means it’s impossible to give answers with 100% certainty. However, the information that is available suggests outcomes for both moms and babies are good. Keep reading our Q&A to learn more.

Can COVID-19 be transmitted to my baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding?

The virus hasn’t been detected in the amniotic fluid, serum, placenta, and breast milk of people confirmed to have COVID-19 infection. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada have indicated that this information suggests it is unlikely that the virus is transmitted to a baby during pregnancy or through breastmilk.

Most babies born to mothers with active or recent COVID-19 infection have not shown any signs of infection themselves. A few babies have tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after birth, which means more research is needed to understand when and how the novel coronavirus can be transmitted to a baby.

If I get sick with COVID-19 during pregnancy can my baby be harmed?

So far, pregnant people don’t seem to be experiencing higher rates of infection or severe illness from COVID-19 than the general population. The majority of infants born to COVID-19 infected mothers are healthy at birth. The small number of adverse pregnancy outcomes that have been reported appear to be related to severe illness in the mother-to-be, with near-term prematurity being the most common adverse pregnancy outcome.

It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider if you develop a fever, cough or difficulty breathing. Seeking medical care early in the illness allows you and your baby to get additional care if you need it
A fever, especially in the first trimester, can increase the chance of some birth defects. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is an over-the-counter fever reducer that is usually safe to use during pregnancy. Ask your healthcare provider if you are unsure whether acetaminophen is safe for you to use. It’s also important to speak with your healthcare provider as soon as possible to determine if the illness causing your fever needs to be treated.
For more information about risks of COVID-19 during pregnancy, check out the COVID-19 fact sheet from Mother to Baby.

How can I protect myself against

Pregnant people have an extra reason to stay COVID-free, but there aren’t any special precautions to follow during pregnancy. Protect yourself and your unborn baby from COVID-19 by:    
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Keeping your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Staying home when you can.
  • Practicing physical distancing when you need to leave your home.
  • Avoiding people who are sick (even those you live with).
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.

How can I prepare for my baby's birth?

Public Health offers a FREE online prenatal program to help you feel more prepared for pregnancy, birth and all that comes after.

If you plan to give birth at a hospital, check out the online birthing unit information for your specific hospital. Birthing unit video tours are also available online for Guelph General Hospital and Groves Memorial Hospital.

Talk to the healthcare provider who is responsible for your prenatal care. Ask if there will be changes in the frequency of your prenatal appointments, or if there is anything you need to know about the labour and birth care you will receive during COVID-19.

It’s also important to check-in with the healthcare provider who will be responsible for assessing your baby’s health and well-being after they are discharged from the hospital to find out if COVID-19 has changed how the healthcare provider provides well-baby care. Figuring this out before you go home with a new baby means you have one less thing to worry about!

Will COVID-19 affect my birth experience?

If you are planning to give birth in a hospital, there are a few things you can expect while COVID-19 is a concern:
  • All patients, visitors and staff will be screened for respiratory symptoms and risk factors before they will be allowed to enter the hospital
  • Only one support person will be able to accompany you during the birth and they will likely be discouraged from coming and going from the hospital
  • If in the last 14 days your support person traveled outside of Canada or has been in contact with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19, or is feeling unwell themselves, they will not be allowed to enter the hospital
  • Once admitted, you will be asked to remain in your room to limit contact with others
  • All staff providing your care will be wearing masks, as well as other personal protective equipment as needed
If you have COVID-19 symptoms or a confirmed COVID-19 infection when you go into labour, your healthcare provider will talk to you about: 
  • Continuous electronic fetal monitoring to monitor your baby’s heart rate. There has been some evidence of fetal distress during labour.
  • Having an early epidural in case an emergency c-section becomes necessary. An emergency c-section without an epidural would require intubation (a tube put in your airway to breathe), which puts healthcare providers at greater risk of getting COVID-19 from you.
It’s also important to talk to your healthcare provider about caring for your baby while you are ill. While taking precautions to protect your baby (see below), you can usually still: If you planned to have a home birth and are sick with COVID-19 symptoms when you go into labour, your midwife will ask you to give birth in a hospital setting.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 at the time of a scheduled c-section, the c-section may be re-scheduled if it is safe to do so.

How can I protect my baby from COVID-19 after they are born?

Parents with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection should take precautions to prevent the spread of infection when breastfeeding or caring for their new baby, including:
  • Wearing a mask
  • Washing hands before and after touching the baby
  • Routinely cleaning and disinfecting surfaces
For more information about feeding your baby during the COVID-19 pandemic, check out the resources from Safely Fed Canada.

Once you take your baby home, it’s advised to limit outings to essential trips only (e.g. medical appointments) and to keep those who don’t live in your home out. Encourage loved ones to support you from afar and to connect by text, phone or live video chat. Meals or groceries dropped off outside your door are also a great way for others to help!

If you plan to have someone come stay with you after the birth to provide hands-on support, it would be safest if they were isolated in their own home for two weeks before they join you in your home. This will reduce the risk that they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 before coming to your home.  

For more information, check out: Given the newness of the situation and the state of continuous change, we also urge you to jot down any questions you have so you can ask them at your next prenatal appointment. This will ensure you have the most up-to-date information that is relevant to your health situation and the place where you will give birth.

Your child's developmental milestones: 

Want more stage and age-specific information? Visit our website to read about your child's development and get more activities and healthy living tips:
1st trimester | 2nd trimester | 3rd trimester | Newborn

Learn more: 

  • Enjoying this monthly e-newsletter? Subscribe to Public Health's Let's Talk Parenting e-Newsletter to get reliable, local parenting information directly to your inbox.
  • Not sure how you will pay for dental care for your children? Public Health has free dental clinics for kids ages 0 to 17.
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