Does Getting COVID-19 While Pregnant Harm Your Baby?

Sep 18, 2021

Coronavirus 101 | Symptoms | Catching it while pregnant | Pregnancy-safe treatments | Dangers | Passing | mom to baby | Delivery | Breast milk | Prevention

Pregnancy is an exciting — and stressful — time. Your mind races with a zillion questions and concerns ranging from mild (but not silly — there are no silly questions when you’re pregnant) to very serious.

A common question is how illness affects the baby while you’re pregnant. You should always let your doctor know if you develop a fever during pregnancy because certain viruses may affect your baby’s health. Examples include:

cytomegalovirus (CMV)
Zika virus
parvovirus B19
In 2019, a new virus hit the world scene and spread rapidly: a novel coronavirus, responsible for the respiratory disease COVID-19. With Zika virus and its risks of birth abnormalities still fresh on many people’s minds, pregnant women may have added another worry to their growing lists.

And in 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO)Trusted Source declared the global outbreak of COVID-19 a “public health emergency of international concern.” Those are some scary words.

COVID-19 is still a new disease that hasn’t been well studied. How it affects pregnant women and their developing babies isn’t fully known. And that’s nerve-wracking.

But before you panic, read on. Here’s what you need to know about the new coronavirus if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that circulate in both humans and animals and can cause everything from the common cold to more serious respiratory illnesses. In late 2019 a new coronavirus, called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), surfaced in humans in Wuhan, China. ExpertsTrusted Source aren’t exactly sure how the virus originated or spread, but they suspect it may have transferred to humans from contact with an animal. The virus causes a respiratory disease called COVID-19.

What symptoms do pregnant or breastfeeding women need to be aware of?

COVID-19 is mainly a respiratory disease. Symptoms typically appear between 2 and 14 days after exposure to the new coronavirus. Data from people who acquired COVID-19 in China found a median incubation period of 4 days. The most common symptoms — whether you’re pregnant or not — are:

  • cough

  • fever

  • shortness of breath

  • fatigue

Other symptoms include:

  • chills, which may sometimes occur alongside repeated shaking

  • sore throat

  • headache

  • loss of smell or taste

  • muscle aches and pains

Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms and are pregnant. You might need to be seen, and maybe even tested, but it’s important to give your doctor advance warning before going into the office so the staff can take precautions to protect their own and other patients’ health.

Are pregnant women more susceptible to the virus?

The virus hasn’t been extensively studied, so no one can say for sure. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source notes that pregnant women are more susceptible than others to all kinds of respiratory infections, such as the flu. This is partly because pregnancy changes your immune system and partly because of the way pregnancy impacts your lungs and heart. Even so, as of March 2020, there’s no concrete evidence suggesting that pregnant women are more prone to COVID-19 than other people, says a 2020 study. And even if they do get the infection, the researchers go on to point out, they’re no more likely than others to get severe complications of the disease, like pneumonia.

What medical treatments are safe for pregnant women with the coronavirus?

Treatment for COVID-19 is similar to the treatment of other respiratory illnesses. Whether you’re pregnant or not, doctors advise:

  • taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) for a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • staying well hydrated with water or low-sugar drinks

  • rest

If Tylenol doesn’t bring down your fever, you have difficulty breathing, or you start vomiting, call your doctor for further guidance.

How dangerous is it for a pregnant woman to get this coronavirus?

Again, because the virus is so new, there’s little data to go on. But experts can pull from the past. The CDCTrusted Source notes that pregnant women who have gotten other, related coronaviruses have a greater chance of having worse outcomes than pregnant women who don’t get these infections.

Things like miscarriage, preterm birth, stillbirth, and having a more severe infection have all been observed in pregnant women with other coronaviruses. And a high fever in the first trimester of pregnancy, regardless of its cause, can lead to birth defects.

OK, take a deep breath. We know that sounds super scary. But all the news isn’t dire, especially when we look at pregnant women who have delivered while sick with this particular virus.

According to a WHO reportTrusted Source that looked at a small sampling of pregnant women with COVID-19, the overwhelming majority didn’t have severe cases. Of the 147 women studied, 8 percent had severe COVID-19 and 1 percent were critical.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists reports that while some Chinese women with coronavirus symptoms have given birth to preterm babies, it’s unclear whether the babies were born early because of the infection or because doctors decided to risk a premature delivery because the moms-to-be were unwell. They’ve also seen no evidence that this particular coronavirus causes miscarriage.

Can the virus pass to my baby during pregnancy or childbirth?

Judging from the women who have given birth while infected with this coronavirus, the answer is probably that it’s unlikely — or more accurately, that there’s no definitive evidence that it does. COVID-19 is a disease that’s mainly passed from person to person through droplets (think the coughs and sneezes of infected people). Your baby can only be exposed to such droplets after birth. In one tiny study looking at nine pregnant Chinese women infected with the new coronavirus in the last trimester of pregnancy, the virus didn’t show up in samples taken from their amniotic fluid or cord blood or in throat swabs of the newborns. However, in one slightly larger studyTrusted Source, three newborns born to women with COVID-19 did test positive for the virus. The other 30 newborns in the group tested negative, and researchers aren’t sure whether the babies who tested positive really contracted the virus in utero or if they got it shortly after delivery.

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If I have COVID-19 at the time of delivery, will I need a cesarean section?

Whether you deliver your baby vaginally or via cesarean will depend on a lot of factors, and not just whether you have COVID-19.

But expertsTrusted Source say a vaginal delivery is favorable to a cesarean delivery, provided you’re eligible for a vaginal delivery and aren’t recommended for a c-section due to other factors. Performing surgery on a body already weakened with a serious virus might cause additional complications, they note.

Can the coronavirus pass through breast milk?

In the few studies that have been done on breastfeeding women with the coronavirus, the answer appears to be no. But experts caution that more research needs to be done before they can definitively say there’s no risk. The CDCTrusted Source says if you’re a new mom who has COVID-19 (or suspects you might), talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of breastfeeding. If you do decide to breastfeed, you can help limit your baby’s exposure to the virus by:

  • wearing a face mask

  • washing your hands thoroughly before touching your baby; be sure to get under your nails and into the webbing of your fingers

  • washing your hands thoroughly before handling a breast pump or bottle

  • considering having someone who is well give the baby a bottle of expressed breast milk

What are the best strategies for avoiding the coronavirus?

No doubt you’ve heard them before, but they bear repeating:

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. (Check out our how-to.) In a pinch, use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. And skip the baby wipes — they don’t disinfect.

  • Stand 6 feet away from people.

  • Avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, eyes, and nose.

  • Stay out of large crowds. In fact, the more you can limit your exposure to people, the better.

  • Take care of yourself. Eat well. Get enough rest. Exercise if your doctor says it’s OK. A healthy body is better able than a run down one to ward off all kinds of diseases.

Some More Precautions to Be Taken

Here I’m mentioning what you have to do during COVID-19 lockdown to conserve yourself from coronavirus,

  • As I mentioned earlier, hand hygiene is essential, it will protect you from the exposure of coronavirus during a lockdown or otherwise

  • Take your vaccination to the flu on time. This will not preserve you from the COVID-19 but it protects you from influenza which could be the cause of complication during pregnancy

  • If possible work from home

  • Follow the social distance during COVID-19, at least maintain the 2 meters or 6 feet distance from the people

  • Restrict contact with people as much as possible

  • While sneezing or coughing, use a tissue or your elbow. Further, throw the tissue after use and wash your hands

  • Acknowledge yourself with the symptoms of the COVID-19, for instance, high fever with or without cough could be a symptom of the same

  • Avoid contact with people who have symptoms of COVID-19

  • Avoid meeting with the doctor in flesh, if possible. You can get a virtual consultation. If this is not possible, as you have to undergo some tests like ultrasound, fetal test, and blood test. In that case, you should not spend much of the time in the waiting room

  • If you notice any respiratory symptoms such as cough, respiratory distress, call your doctor instantly. After considering your history your doctor would conclude you need to undergo the test for COVID-19 or not

  • Keep in touch with your family and friends through e-mails, calls, video calls, etc, as you need support at this moment. Because COVID-19 lockdown is affecting you mentally too

  • You can acquire some skills and a new hobby

  • Exercise, under doctor’s, advise

  • Ease your mind by taking a long shower, read books, and meditation

  • Do not stress much if your delivery date is coming, as all the hospitals have safe places for the same


I hope you understand that all you need is to be careful during this time. I know this COVID-19 lockdown is affecting you mentally, and you are not able to go out. But I would say, let’s not waste time thinking about what you can not do, but focus on what you have.

You elder kid, husband, and other family member are there, you can spend some quality time with them. To remain healthy, you can do exercise, of course with the consent of the doctor.

All you need to understand is that your and baby’s health is all which matters.

God forbids, if you are pregnant during COVID-19 or lockdown then follow all the precautions. Don’t take too much tension and stress. Be with your doctor for the checkups and consultations.

Stay safe during COVID-19!

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