Many pregnant women are concerned regarding the possible impact of COVID-19 infection during the pregnancy and in the post-partum period, especially when breastfeeding their newborn baby.
Current evidence suggests that pregnant women with COVID-19 have a higher risk of severe illness compared to non-pregnant women with COVID-19 of the same age.
This includes an increased risk of:
COVID-19 during pregnancy also increases the risk of complications for the baby including a higher risk of stillbirth and premature births.
There is no evidence that COVID-19 increases the risk of miscarriage or early pregnancy loss. In general, the immune system is suppressed during pregnancy, and this may impact on the severity of symptoms caused by respiratory viruses. During the first trimester of pregnancy, high fevers can potentially increase the risk of certain birth defects. Prompt medical attention is important if you develop high fevers during early pregnancy.
Pregnancy causes physiological changes to the woman’s immune system, which may make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections including the novel coronavirus. Furthermore, pregnant women who become infected with COVID-19 are more prone to developing more severe illness, compared to non-pregnant women in the same age group.
Currently there is no evidence that the virus is carried in breastmilk, and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) support breastfeeding in women diagnosed with COVID-19. Women who are diagnosed with COVID-19 should wear a facemask while feeding their baby, and wash their hands thoroughly before each feed.
Vaccination is the best way to reduce the risks of COVID-19 during pregnancy. Pregnant women are a priority group for COVID-19 vaccination, and should be routinely offered the COVID-19 vaccine as determined by their obstetrician, at any stage of pregnancy. Booster vaccines are also recommended for pregnant women, just as booster COVID-19 vaccines are recommended in non-pregnant women.
Women who are trying to become pregnant can receive vaccination and do not need to delay vaccination.
In Australia, the flu season will overlap with the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing the strain on the health system. Vaccination for Influenza is recommended in pregnancy, especially during this pandemic. Influenza is a potentially serious disease for pregnant women, due to changes in the immune system during pregnancy. Pregnant women can experience severe complications from Influenza.
To reduce the transmission of COVID-19, the following measures are very important:
If you are concerned you may have COVID-19, please call your GP or the National COVID-19 Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you develop symptoms (such as fever, cough, sore throat, diarrhoea, fatigue, difficulty), please contact your obstetrician or your GP.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the risks to pregnant women, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) has suggested the following:
On 16 March 2020, the Australian government implemented new Medicare legislation to allow obstetricians to provide Telehealth consultation during pregnancy. This may facilitate the above strategies to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 during the pregnancy.
If you have concerns or abnormal symptoms (e.g. feeling reduced baby movements, vaginal bleeding, pain), then you should contact your obstetrician, just as you would during normal times.
It will be useful to have a blood pressure measuring device at home, and please contact your obstetrician if your blood pressure is over 140/90mmHg during the pregnancy.
For additional information, the following resources can provide important updates and advice: