*Information on COVID-19 is rapidly evolving, and this fact sheet could become outdated by the time you read it. For the most up to date information, please call MotherToBaby at 866-626-6847.
This sheet talks about having COVID-19 in pregnancy or while breastfeeding. This information should not take the place of medical care and advice from your healthcare provider.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a virus. This virus (called SARS-CoV-2) belongs to a group called coronaviruses. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include chills with or without shaking, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and a new loss of taste or smell. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, respiratory failure, and death. Some people have only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all (asymptomatic), but they can still spread the virus to other people.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread mostly by close person-to-person contact. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, the virus can spread to others who are nearby. The best ways to protect yourself from infection are to avoid close contact with others (stay at least 6 feet away), wash your hands frequently, and clean/disinfect frequently touched surfaces. Staying home as much as possible when the virus is spreading in your community and avoiding gatherings, especially in indoor spaces, can also reduce your chance of exposure. We can all help prevent the spread of the virus and protect ourselves against infection by wearing cloth face coverings when out in public.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares additional information for pregnancy and breastfeeding (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/pregnancy-breastfeeding.html).
Can I be tested for COVID-19?
You should be tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19, you have had close contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19, or you have been asked by your healthcare provider or public health department to be tested. CDC offers information about testing for COVID-19 (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/testing.html). Your local testing guidelines may be different.
I have COVID-19. Can it make it harder for me to get pregnant?
Based on the data available, it is not known if having COVID-19 could make it harder to get pregnant.
Does having COVID-19 increase the chance for miscarriage?
Miscarriage can occur in any pregnancy. Based on the data available, it is not known if having COVID-19 increases the chance of miscarriage.
Does having COVID-19 increase the chance of birth defects?
Every pregnancy starts out with a 3-5% chance of having a birth defect. This is called the background risk. Based on the data available, it is not known if having COVID-19 increases the chance of birth defects above the background risk. At this time there are no reports of babies born with birth defects related to COVID-19.
A high fever in the first trimester can increase the chance of certain birth defects (see MotherToBaby’s fact sheet: https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/hyperthermia-pregnancy/). If you get sick with COVID-19 or any other illness and develop a high fever, please speak with your healthcare provider as soon as possible to discuss the best way to lower it.
Does having COVID-19 cause pregnancy complications?
There is still limited information about COVID-19 and pregnancy. People who are pregnant and have COVID-19 might have a higher chance of becoming very sick than people who are not pregnant. Two recent reports looking at COVID-19 infections among women in the U.S. found that those who were pregnant had a higher chance of being admitted to intensive care and needing to be put on a ventilator (machine that helps you breathe) than women who were not pregnant.
Having severe symptoms or complications from any illness might increase the chance of pregnancy complications, such as preterm delivery (delivery before 37 weeks of pregnancy). A recent report looking at COVID-19 infections among pregnant women in the U.S. found a higher than expected number of preterm deliveries following infection in the 2nd or 3rd trimesters. There have been other reports of preterm deliveries among women with COVID-19 in the U.S. and other countries. However, it is not always clear from these reports if the deliveries happened on their own because of the mother’s infection, if the healthcare providers chose to deliver the baby early due to the mother’s worsening symptoms (such as respiratory distress), or if the preterm deliveries were due to other reasons unrelated to COVID-19. Researchers need more information to better understand all the possible effects of COVID-19 in pregnancy.
Can the virus that causes COVID-19 pass to the baby during the pregnancy?
In reports of infants born to women with COVID-19 around the time of delivery, most newborns have not had evidence of infection. However, a small number of newborns have tested positive for the virus soon after delivery. Although this suggests the possibility that the virus could pass from a person who is pregnant to their baby during pregnancy, researchers need more information in order to confirm this, and to better understand all the possible effects of COVID-19 in pregnancy.
Does having COVID-19 in pregnancy cause long-term problems?
Based on the data available, it is not known if having COVID-19 in pregnancy causes long-term problems.
I am pregnant and work at a job where I could be exposed to COVID-19. How can I protect myself?
Please see our fact sheet on Occupational Exposure to COVID-19 for more information (https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/occupational-exposure-to-covid-19/).
Can I breastfeed while I have COVID-19?
Based on current information, breast milk isn’t likely to spread the virus to babies. Particles of the virus have been found in a small number of breast milk samples from women with COVID-19, but these particles are not expected to cause infection in babies. There have not been any reported cases of infants getting COVID-19 through breast milk. Breast milk provides protection against many childhood infections. People are often encouraged to continue breastfeeding or providing breast milk even when they are sick with a virus, such as flu.
People who are breastfeeding while sick with COVID-19 can help prevent passing the virus to their babies through contact by washing their hands frequently and wearing a face covering while nursing. They can also consider pumping milk for someone else to feed their baby while they recover. The CDC has information on COVID-19 and breastfeeding (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/pregnancy-breastfeeding.html#breastfeeding). Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about all your breastfeeding questions.
Can having COVID-19 it make it harder for me to get my partner pregnant or increase the chance of birth defects?
This has not been studied. In general, exposures that fathers or sperm donors have are unlikely to increase risks to a pregnancy. For more information, please see the MotherToBaby fact sheet on Paternal Exposures at https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/paternal-exposures-pregnancy/pdf/.
MotherToBaby is currently conducting an observational study looking at COVID-19 in pregnancy and while breastfeeding. If you know or suspect you may have COVID-19 and you are interested in taking part in this study, please call 1-877-311-8972 or sign up at https://mothertobaby.org/join-study/.
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