COVID-19 & Pregnancy - Alert Level 3

COVID-19 & Pregnancy - Alert Level 3

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, many pregnant women are feeling anxious about their own health and that of their baby. So far, there has been no clear evidence of pregnant women passing on COVID-19 to their babies during pregnancy or birth. Pregnant women who develop COVID-19 do not seem more at risk of serious complications than other healthy people.

Key points to remember about COVID-19 and pregnancy

We also have advice about COVID-19 and pregnancy in Alert Level 1 and Alert Level 2

  • pregnant women who develop COVID-19 do not seem more at risk of serious complications than other healthy people
  • so far, there has been no clear evidence of pregnant women passing on COVID-19 to their babies during pregnancy or birth (called 'vertical transmission')
  • follow New Zealand's current Alert Level rules (see Unite Against COVID-19)

What effect can COVID-19 have on me if I'm pregnant?

So far, pregnant women who develop COVID-19 do not seem more at risk of serious complications than other healthy individuals.

If I'm pregnant and have COVID-19, can I pass it on to my baby during pregnancy or birth?

So far, there has been no clear evidence of pregnant women passing on COVID-19 to their babies during pregnancy or birth (called 'vertical transmission'). 

If I'm pregnant and have COVID-19, how might it affect my baby?

COVID-19 is a new virus and health professionals are learning about it. For pregnant women with COVID-19, the evidence so far indicates:

  • there is no increased risk of miscarriage
  • if a pregnant woman has COVID-19, it is unlikely to cause problems with her baby's development

Some babies born to women with symptoms of COVID-19 in China were born prematurely. It is unclear whether COVID-19 caused early labour, or whether there was a recommendation to induce birth early because of the woman's ill-health.

Will the COVID-19 pandemic affect my pregnancy care?

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, your midwife will do as much of each visit as possible over the phone or by video call. Your midwife may do fewer in-person visits. She will talk with you about the best place to have these.

When you do have in-person check-ups, your midwife will ask you to go to these alone (no partners, family members or children). You'll need to follow strict hygiene measures, including physical distancing. You're strongly encouraged to wear a face mask that covers your nose and mouth when you leave your house to see your midwife. Check the Unite Against COVID-19 website for information on face coverings

The physical check-ups like blood pressure and checking your baby's growth and heart rate will still happen. They will just happen as quickly as possible.

Before any in-person check-ups, your midwife will check that you are well. If you are not well, your midwife may change the appointment to a later date. Or, she may organise the visit over the phone or by video call.

See the information on pregnancy, baby feeding and midwifery care on the New Zealand College of Midwives website.

What if I am pregnant and in quarantine/self-isolating?

If you are in quarantine/self-isolating due to possible exposure to COVID-19, or you have symptoms of COVID-19, tell your midwife.

If you are less than 37 weeks pregnant

Your midwife (or GP or obstetrician) may delay visits until after the end of your quarantine/self-isolation period. Your midwife will only do this if she thinks it is safe for you and your baby. If you do need a visit, you will wear a surgical face mask while your midwife visits you. Your midwife will give you the mask. Your midwife may also wear some personal protective equipment (like a mask).

If you are more than 37 weeks pregnant

You will have visits as usual. You will wear a surgical face mask while your midwife visits you. Your midwife will give you the mask. Your midwife may also wear some personal protective equipment (like a mask).

Your midwife will talk with you about your options for labour and birth, and your care immediately after birth, in case you give birth during your quarantine/self-isolation period.

What if I develop symptoms of COVID-19 during self-isolation?

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 during your quarantine/self-isolation period, you need to tell your midwife and your GP. You will need to have a test for COVID-19. Your care providers will treat you as positive for COVID-19 until you receive a negative test result.

What should I do if I'm pregnant and have symptoms of COVID-19?

If you have cold or flu symptoms, please call:

  • your doctor
  • iwi health provider, or
  • Healthline for free on 0800 358 5453

A health professional will let you know the next steps and whether you should get a test. If they tell you to get tested, you should stay home while you wait for your test.

Symptoms include:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature (at least 38 degrees Celsius)
  • shortness of breath
  • sore throat
  • sneezing and runny nose
  • temporary loss of smell

Make sure you let your midwife know if you become unwell.

What should I do if I'm pregnant and have a COVID-19 diagnosis?

If you have had a COVID-19 diagnosis, tell your midwife.

If you are less than 37 weeks pregnant

Your midwife may delay your normal visits until you are clear of COVID-19. Your midwife will only do this if she thinks it is safe for you and your baby. If you do need a visit, your midwife will talk with you and the hospital service about the best place for you to have your appointment. You will wear a surgical face mask during your appointment. Your midwife will give you the mask. Your midwife will wear full personal protection equipment (gloves, surgical mask, disposable apron or gown, and eye protection) during the visit.

If you are more than 37 weeks pregnant

You will have visits as usual. You will wear a surgical face mask while your midwife visits you. Your midwife will give you the mask. Your midwife will wear full personal protection equipment (gloves, surgical mask, disposable apron or gown, and eye protection) during the visit.

Your midwife will talk with you about your options for labour and birth, and your care immediately after birth, in case you give birth before you are clear of COVID-19.

What about care for my older children during labour and birth?

If you have other children, you will need someone to care for them when you go into labour. They will need to follow the rules for New Zealand's current Alert Level (see the Unite against COVID-19 website). 

Will maternity units be operating as normal?

Birthing units and birthing suites in hospitals and in the community will remain open to provide essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you are pregnant and due to give birth over the next few weeks, check with your midwife about the service level available at your local maternity unit.

Restrictions on visitors and support people

Maternity units will have restrictions on the number of visitors and support people you can have with you during labour and during your stay after your baby's birth.

Reducing the number of people visiting the maternity unit reduces the risk of infections spreading. This is a really important part of helping stop the spread of COVID-19 and will help protect you, your family/whānau, your newborn baby, other patients in the hospital and the staff looking after you.

Length of stay

Some maternity units may need to limit the amount of time you can stay after your baby is born. Maternity units should provide care that is specific to your and your baby's individual needs and requirements. You will be able to stay in the maternity unit after giving birth if there are medical reasons which make this necessary. Your midwife will visit you at home with in-person visits and she will also keep in touch with you by phone or video call to make sure you and your baby are well.

What happens straight after birth if I have COVID-19?

If you have COVID-19, staff in your maternity unit will talk with you about your options straight after birth. They will involve you in shared decision-making.

Can I touch and hold my newborn baby if I have COVID-19?

Yes. Close contact and early, exclusive breastfeeding will help your baby to thrive. Your care providers should support you to:

  • breastfeed safely - taking precautions
  • hold your newborn skin-to-skin
  • share a room with your baby

What precautions should I take if I'm breastfeeding and have COVID-19?

  • wash hands before and after contact with your baby (including feeding)
  • wear a surgical mask during breastfeeds
  • avoid coughing or sneezing on your baby
  • avoid kissing and touching your baby's face, and your own face
  • clean and disinfect any surfaces you touch

For more information about breastfeeding safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, see COVID-19 and breastfeeding.

What are the chances of my baby developing COVID-19?

Other countries (such as Italy and the UK) report that babies usually stay well if they stay with a mother who has mild COVID-19 symptoms and takes precautions around breastfeeding.

How long should I stay in the maternity unit?

If you have COVID-19, it's best you stay at least 48 hours after birth in the maternity unit. But, if you are well, you may be able to go home and receive care from your midwife.

Your stay in the maternity unit will be longer if:

  • you need close monitoring
  • your baby needs close monitoring
  • your baby is in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or specialist care baby unit (SCBU) for a short stay

What if I become quite unwell and need treatment for COVID-19?

If you become quite unwell and need to transfer to a medical area or intensive care unit for your own treatment, the best option is for your baby to be with a well family member. If you are well enough to do so, you can still express breastmilk for your baby. 

What if I have COVID-19 and my baby has to go to a neonatal intensive care unit or specialist care baby unit?

Neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) or specialist care baby units (SCBUs) will be taking special precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is really important to protect babies and staff.

If you or your partner have COVID-19 and your baby needs to spend time in NICU or SCBU, you won't be able to visit your baby in the unit. NICU and SCBU staff understand this will be a very difficult time for you. They will talk with you about using your phone to keep in touch and to take photos and video clips.

If your baby was premature or needs to stay in NICU or SCBU for a longer time, you and your partner can go to the unit when:

  • it is more than 10 days since you (or your partner) became unwell, and
  • you (or your partner) have had no symptoms for at least 48 hours, and
  • 2 COVID-19 tests taken 24 hours apart are negative (testing will depend on advice from your local specialists)

If your baby was not premature and has been in NICU or SCBU for a shorter stay, they can come back to you (or another family member) once stable and before leaving hospital.

What can I expect from my care after my baby's birth during the COVID-19 pandemic?

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, your midwife will do as much of each visit as possible over the phone or by video call. Your midwife may do fewer in-person visits. She will talk with you about the best place to have these.

Your midwife will ask that no one else is present during check-ups (no partners, family members or children). You'll need to follow strict hygiene measures, including physical distancing. The physical assessments of you and your baby will still happen. They will just happen as quickly as possible.

What if I'm in quarantine/self-isolating after giving birth?

If you are in quarantine/self-isolating due to possible exposure to COVID-19 your midwife may delay visits until after the end of your quarantine/self-isolation period. Your midwife will only do this if she thinks it is safe for you and your baby.

If you do need a visit, you will wear a surgical face mask while your midwife visits you. Your midwife will give you the mask. Your midwife may also wear some personal protective equipment (like a mask).

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 during your quarantine/self-isolation period, call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 and follow their advice. Healthline is the best phone number to call first but you should also let your midwife know if you become unwell.

If you develop symptoms, your midwife will treat you as positive for COVID-19 until you receive a negative test result.

What should I do if I have a COVID-19 diagnosis after giving birth?

If you have had a COVID-19 diagnosis, tell your midwife. Your midwife may delay your normal visits until you are clear of COVID-19. Your midwife will only do this if she thinks it is safe for you and your baby.

If you do need a visit, you will wear a surgical face mask while your midwife visits you. Your midwife will give you the mask. Your midwife will wear full personal protection equipment (gloves, surgical mask, disposable apron or gown, and eye protection) during the visit.

Should my baby have their first immunisation at 6 weeks?

Yes. Immunisation on time is important for your baby. Delaying the first immunisation puts your baby at unnecessary risk of infections such as whooping cough and measles. Check Immunising children during COVID-19.

Image of mother and child with text: Keep up with your child's free immunisations during all COVID-19 alert levels

Make sure your baby has their immunisations at:

  • 6 weeks
  • 3 months
  • 5 months
  • 15 months

GPs will have arrangements in place so that babies and children can have their immunisations safely during COVID-19. If some GP practices can't provide immunisations during COVID-19, they will refer families to another provider who can. You can call your GP ahead of visiting to find out about the arrangements they have in place.

The content on this page is supported by The New Zealand College of Midwives.

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This page last reviewed 19 August 2020.
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