FAQs on Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, Newborns and Coronavirus

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If you are expecting a baby or have a newborn in the house, you probably have many questions about coronavirus, or COVID-19. This is a scary time for us all, but when you are pregnant or the parent of an infant, it’s understandable that you would be especially protective and worried.

After all, pregnant moms are generally more vulnerable to viruses and infections, as are newborns. If you are a breastfeeding mom, you may have additional questions about the safety of your milk, and breastfeeding in general.

One of the difficult aspects of COVID-19 is that it’s a brand new virus that hasn’t been studied extensively, so experts don’t know as much as they would like to. That being said, there are some things experts do know about COVID-19 and how it seems to affect pregnancy, breastfeeding, and newborns. Health organizations like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and The World Health Organization (WHO) are offering updated guidelines and protocols regarding these questions.

Let’s take a look at the advice the most trusted major health organizations are offering concerned new parents about COVID-19.

FAQ on Coronavirus, Pregnancy, and Delivery

Can Infants Get Coronavirus During Pregnancy? 

If you have tested positive for COVID-19 or if you are concerned that you might contract it in the future, you might wonder whether or not you could pass the virus to your baby in utero. There is limited data so far about whether it’s possible for that to happen, but experts are cautiously optimistic that COVID-19 isn’t easily transmitted during pregnancy.

As of now, says the CDC, no infants whose mothers tested positive for COVID-19 have been born with the virus. In addition, notes the CDC, the virus was not found in the amniotic fluid of mothers who tested positive for COVID-19.

How Could COVID-19 Affect My Developing Baby?

Even if you don’t currently have COVID-19, you may be wondering whether being positive for COVID-19 during pregnancy can harm your baby or pregnancy. Again, this is an area where there is very limited data so far.

Two small reports—one published in The Lancet, and one published by the World Health Organization (WHO)—did not find adverse health outcomes for babies born to mothers who tested positive for COVID-19. So this is potentially some good news.

However, as the CDC reports, there have been a small number of concerning issues reported among pregnant moms who have COVID-19, including premature birth, which can adversely affect the health of newborns. As the CDC notes, it is unclear whether these premature births were directly related to COVID-19 infection or not. 

What If I Get Coronavirus While Pregnant?

In general, pregnant women are more susceptible to contracting viruses during pregnancy due to decreased immunity. It is known that pregnant women can experience complications if they contract viruses like influenza while pregnant. Unfortunately, little is known about what happens when pregnant women contract COVID-19.

Experts agree that since there is not enough research yet on the matter, it’s better to err on the side of caution since pregnant women are generally at “at risk” category for severe disease from viruses and other illnesses.

“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,” explains the CDC. “With viruses from the same family as COVID-19, and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, women have had a higher risk of developing severe illness.” 

The CDC’s top advice on the matter? Regardless of the virus or disease, it’s “always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illnesses.” 

How Might the COVID-19 Outbreak Affect My Labor and Delivery Plans? 

With the spread of COVID-19 seriously impacting hospital systems across the country, you may have questions about how this will affect your birth experience

So far, neither the CDC has released protocols for hospitals to follow regarding how many visitors a mom can have in the delivery room. However, many hospitals are limiting birthing mothers to only one or two guests. This can be difficult because it might mean choosing between having your partner with you in the delivery room or a labor assistant such as a doula.

Unfortunately, many hospitals are limiting or banning visitors after birth, including your children and other family members. You should continue to check in with your hospital regarding their policies, as it’s likely they will be changing frequently during this time. 

FAQ On Coronavirus And Breastfeeding

Can Coronavirus Be Transmitted Through Breastmilk?

If you are a breastfeeding mom or plan to breastfeed your baby, one of your top questions right now is probably whether or not COVID-19 can be passed from you to your baby through your breastmilk.

Although more research needs to be done on the matter, so far it appears that breastmilk doesn’t contain COVID-19. “In limited studies on women with COVID-19 and another coronavirus infection, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), the virus has not been detected in breast milk,” explains the CDC.

This is good news because your breastmilk provides important antibodies for your baby to fight viruses and disease — which is why all major health organizations are urging breastfeeding mothers to continue breastfeeding or feeding their baby breastmilk during the outbreak.

Even mothers who test positive for COVID-19 can usually continue breastfeeding or pumping, with proper safety measures intact.

“Breast milk provides protection against many illnesses,” explains the CDC. “There are rare exceptions when breastfeeding or feeding expressed breast milk is not recommended.”

Can I Breastfeed If I Test Positive For Coronavirus? 

Although it appears as of now that COVID-19 is not passed from mom to infants through breastmilk, if you are a COVID-19 positive mom, there is certainly risk of you passing the virus to your infant via respiratory droplets, as the CDC explains. 

Right now, the CDC doesn’t have a specific protocol in place when it comes to COVID-19 positive mothers breastfeeding their babies and recommends that all mothers consult with their healthcare providers on a case-by-case basis. 

The World Health Organization states that mothers with COVID-19 can breastfeed. “Considering the benefits of breastfeeding and the insignificant role of breast milk in the transmission of other respiratory viruses, a mother could can [sic] continue breastfeeding,” explained the WHO in a March 2020 memo.

However, the WHO lists some safety precautions COVID-19 positive moms should take:

  • They should always wear a medical mask while feeding their babies
  • They should “perform hand hygiene” before and directly after feeding

If you have an active case of COVID-19 and your healthcare is very concerned about transmission to your infant, they may ask you to pump your milk and have someone who is not ill feed your baby your milk.

Advice on Pumping

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) has some advice about pumping if you are positive for COVID-19.

“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,” writes the ABM. “If possible, consider having someone who is well care for and feed the expressed breast milk to the infant.”

FAQ on Coronavirus and Newborns

Will I Have To Be Separated From My Baby If I Test Positive for COVID-19?

Unfortunately, with the possible exception of breastfeeding, the CDC is recommending that if a new mom tests positive for COVID-19, she should be separated from her baby after birth.

“To reduce the risk of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 from the mother to the newborn, facilities should consider temporarily separating (e.g., separate rooms) the mother who has confirmed COVID-19 or is a PUI from her baby until the mother’s transmission-based precautions are discontinued,” writes the CDC. 

At the same time, the CDC contends, the risks and benefits of this separation is something that a mother can discuss with her healthcare providers. The decision about when to end the temporary separation is also a matter that can be made collaboratively, on a case-by-case basis, with your healthcare providers.

How Can I Keep My New Baby Safe?

Even if you aren’t COVID-19 positive, you will want to take extra care to keep your baby safe during this time. Most of us are practicing “social distancing” during this outbreak anyway, but you shouldn’t be afraid to severely limit new visitors or say no to visitors altogether.

Family and friends will want to meet your new baby, and this is understandable, but for now, they will have to “meet” your baby by video chatting and other online communications. You also want to make sure you are practicing basic hygiene protocols such as hand washing and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.

A Word from Verywell

 These are very difficult times to be living in if you are a new or expectant parent. You likely have many questions and concerns, along with a host of worries and fears.

You should never hesitate to contact your healthcare provider with any questions you have—their goal is to keep you and your baby safe right now, and are doing their best to digest all the data coming in and offer the most up-to-date advice.

Remember, too, that your mental health is as important as your physical health right now. If you are finding that your concerns about COVID-19 are becoming too overwhelming for you to handle, or if you suspect you are experiencing symptoms of prepartum or postpartum depression or anxiety, please contact your doctor right away for help.

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. ABM Statement on Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). Updated March 10, 2020.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim Considerations for Infection Prevention and Control of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Inpatient Obstetric Healthcare Settings. Updated February 2020.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pregnancy & Breastfeeding. Updated March 17, 2020.

  • J Qiao. The Lancet. What are the risks of COVID-19 infection in pregnant women? 2020. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30365-2.

  • World Health Organization. Home care for patients with COVID-19 presenting with mild symptoms and management of their contacts. Published March 17, 2020.

  • World Health Organization. Report of the WHO-China joint mission

    on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Published February 2020.