Pregnancy & Breastfeeding Coronavirus FAQ

COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic.  Many patients are fearful about how this will impact their pregnancy.  Here are some frequently asked questions to help you stay safe.

 

Is it easier for pregnant women to become ill with coronavirus? If they do become infected, will they be sicker than other people?

We do not currently know if pregnant women have a greater chance of getting sick from COVID-19 than the general public nor whether they are more likely to have serious illness as a result.  Early information does not suggest more severe illness in pregnancy or that it is easier to catch. Pregnant women do have a higher risk of developing severe illness with other viruses, such as influenza. It is always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illnesses.

 

 How can pregnant women protect themselves (and others) from getting COVID-19?

Pregnant women should do the same things as the general public to avoid infection. You can help stop the spread of COVID-19 by taking these actions:

  • Cover your cough (using your elbow is a good technique)
  • Avoid people who are sick
  • Clean your hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Stay home if you are ill

Can COVID-19 cause problems for a fetus?

We do not know at this time if COVID-19 can cause problems during pregnancy or affect the health of the baby after birth.  So far there have been no birth defects associated with infection, but information is lacking.  Other viral pneumonias increase the risk for low birthweight, so you may have extra ultrasounds to confirm that the baby is growing well.  There may also be a higher risk for premature birth, so please report any symptoms to your OB doctor.  So far, no infants born to mothers with COVID-19 have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

 

How are pregnant women with coronavirus treated?

Most people with COVID-19 infection will need only symptom treatment with medications like Tylenol for fever, cough suppressants like Robitussin-DM, or antidiarrheal medicines like Imodium.  These can be safely used in pregnancy.  Remember to avoid full strength aspirin or ibuprofen, especially in the third trimester.  A chest X-ray is safe if needed, as is a chest CT with abdominal shielding.  The radiation exposure from either of these studies is very small and unlikely to harm the pregnancy.  If you become severely ill, treatment is the same as for non-pregnant patients and could include antibiotics and even mechanical ventilation.

 

I have a cough and fever.  Do I need to be tested for coronavirus?

Currently, testing is limited and only available through certain Indiana State Department of Health guidelines for patients who are ill AND were exposed to someone known to have coronavirus or for patients who are hospitalized.  More testing may be made available to certain populations in the next few weeks.  However, testing for other viruses like influenza is available and should be considered.

 

Can I breastfeed my baby?

Breast milk provides protection against many illnesses but there are rare exceptions when breastfeeding or feeding expressed breast milk is not recommended.  We do not know whether mothers with COVID-19 can transmit the virus via breast milk.  The virus was not found in samples of amniotic fluid or breastmilk but only a small number of infants and their mothers have been tested.

 

According to the CDC: A mother with confirmed COVID-19 or symptoms should take all possible precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant, including washing her hands before touching the infant and wearing a face mask, if possible, while feeding at the breast.  If expressing breast milk with a manual or electric breast pump, the mother should wash her hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use. If possible, consider having someone who is well feed the expressed breast milk to the infant.  Please speak to your physician or lactation consultant for up-to-date advice as we learn more.