Health and wellbeing blogs

COVID-19 pregnancy and breastfeeding advice

We are closely monitoring the changes in the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and are following all recommended precautions to protect our patients, visitors and caregivers. We also want to keep our patients and community members informed, so we have answered some of the common questions that pregnant and breastfeeding women are asking us about what this situation means for their health and wellbeing and that of their baby.

Are pregnant women more susceptible to infection, or at increased risk for severe illness, morbidity, or mortality with COVID-19, compared with the general public?

Currently there is limited information about susceptibility of pregnant women to COVID-19. During pregnancy, women experience changes to their immune system which might make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19. This is one of the many reasons we encourage pregnant women to be fully immunised against whooping cough as well as receiving the annual flu vaccine.

St John of God Health Care COVID-19 and maternity

Are pregnant women with COVID-19 at increased risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes?

There is still very little known about the adverse effect that COVID-19 may have on pregnancy during the very short time it has circulated. 

We do know that pregnancy loss, including miscarriage and stillbirth, were 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.

Can pregnant women with COVID-19 pass the virus to their unborn baby or newborn?

COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly by close contact with an infected person through respiratory droplets. It is still unknown if a pregnant mother who has COVID-19 can transmit the virus to her unborn baby or newborn baby before, during or after deliver. 

In the most recent cases where infants were born to mothers with COVID-19, none of the infants have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. Additionally, the virus was not detected in samples of amniotic fluid or breastmilk.

Is it possible to transmit the illness to my baby while breastfeeding?

In the very limited case numbers to date, there is no evidence of the virus found in the breast milk of women with COVID-19. The transmission to babies is thought to come from the close contact with the mother and baby via respiratory droplets when sneezing or coughing.  We encourage you continue breastfeeding.

What can I do to assist with the prevention of spread of COVID-19?

While there is no vaccination for COVID-19 it recommended that you get vaccinated against influenza when the vaccine is available. 

Other simple measures to assist are:

  • Practice good hand hygiene – wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, particularly after going to the toilet and before eating food. Alcohol based hand rub is an acceptable alternative
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing OR cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow. Encourage others to do the same. Make sure you put the tissue into a bin and then wash your hands afterwards
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands
  • Where possible, keep 1.5m away from people who have a respiratory illness.

Updated: 19 March 2020
Source: Centres for Disease Control and Prevention

Lucille Ridley Group Infection Control Coordinator

About the Author

Lucille Ridley is the St John of God Health Care Infection Prevention and Control Manager. She is registered nurse with more than 30 years' experience across the private and public health care sector.