About COVID-19 and pregnant women
If pregnant women get COVID-19, the effects of the illness can vary.
Some women might not get any symptoms at all. Many women who get COVID-19 will have only mild or moderate symptoms.
But some pregnant women with COVID-19 might get complications, which puts them and their babies at risk:
- Compared with non-pregnant women, pregnant women with COVID-19 are more likely to need hospitalisation and intensive treatment.
- Compared with pregnant women without COVID-19, pregnant women with COVID-19 are more likely to give birth prematurely. Also, their babies are more likely to need time in the NICU.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has the latest updates on COVID-19 and pregnancy. For general information, download the Australian Government’s Coronavirus app. You can also visit your state or territory COVID-19 webpage, or call the Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 or Healthdirect on 1800 022 222.
Reducing your risk of catching COVID-19 during pregnancy
If you’re pregnant, it’s very important to take protective measures against COVID-19.
The best way to reduce your risk of catching COVID-19 and getting COVID-19 complications during pregnancy is to get a COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccination is recommended at any stage of pregnancy.
Good personal hygiene can also help to protect you from COVID-19:
- Wash your hands carefully and regularly. Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds. You can use hand sanitiser if you don’t have soap and water.
- Wash your hands after going to the toilet, before touching food, after being out in public, after being around sick people, and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, or cough or sneeze into your elbow. If you’ve used a tissue, put it into a bin afterwards.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Other protective measures include the following:
- Where possible, stay at least 1.5-2 m away from anyone who’s sneezing or coughing, and avoid close contact with anyone with COVID-19.
- Wear a face mask if recommended or required by your state or territory health authorities.
- If your work puts you at high risk of exposure to COVID-19, consider asking to be reassigned to lower-risk duties.
- Sanitise frequently touched surfaces within your house like benchtops and doorknobs with household detergent and water.
- Avoid smoking, and stay away from cigarette smoke. If you or your partner smoke, now is a great time to quit.
- Avoid overseas travel.
There might be changes to your antenatal appointments and tests during the COVID-19 pandemic. Talk to your midwife or doctor to find out how your antenatal appointment schedule is affected.
Symptoms of COVID-19
Common symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- symptoms like those of a cold or flu, including runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, cough, headache, and muscle aches and pains
- difficulty breathing
- loss of appetite
- loss or altered sense of smell or taste.
Symptoms might come on very quickly and might last 2-5 days. Recovery from symptoms like tiredness might take several weeks, depending on how severe the illness has been.
The incubation period for COVID-19 can be 1-14 days. This means the virus can infect people up to 14 days before symptoms start to appear.
What to do if you’re pregnant and have COVID-19 symptoms
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, get a COVID-19 test. Check your state or territory health department website for testing locations.
After the test, you must go straight home, stay at home until you get the test result, and follow the directions of your state or territory health service.
It’s natural to worry if you’re pregnant and diagnosed with COVID-19. If you need support, talk to your midwife, GP or obstetrician. You can also call Lifeline on 131 114, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636, or the PANDA National Helpline on 1300 726 306.
Treatment and management of COVID-19 for pregnant women
There’s currently no specific treatment for COVID-19 that can make it go away more quickly.
If you’re pregnant and diagnosed with COVID-19, phone your midwife, obstetrician or GP to let them know. They’ll tell you how to manage the illness. This might include paracetamol (for example, Panadol and Dymadon) and plenty of fluids and rest.
If you start feeling very unwell and need urgent medical attention, call either 000 or your local emergency department. Tell them about your symptoms and diagnosis, and then follow their directions.
Your health professional or state or territory service will also tell you how to protect others from infection. This will involve a period of strictly staying at home with no visitors for 7-14 days, depending on your state government requirements. They’ll also tell you what other members of your household need to do.
If there are problems in your relationship, including family violence, you can get support by calling the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732). If you’re in immediate danger, call the police on 000. Family violence is not OK. It’s never justified by feelings or family circumstances.
Birth and COVID-19 for pregnant women
If you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are due to give birth, you can continue with any plans you’ve made for your baby’s birth. For example, if you’ve planned a vaginal birth, you can continue with this plan.
Skin-to-skin contact with your baby following birth is also still encouraged.
There’s a chance that your newborn will catch COVID-19 from you after birth. Health professionals will watch your baby closely after birth for any signs of infection.
Professionals will also advise you on how to reduce your newborn’s risk of catching COVID-19. This might include careful hand-washing and personal hygiene when you’re handling your newborn, as well as extra measures like limiting visitors and wearing a mask.
You can breastfeed your baby, even if you have COVID-19. There’s currently no evidence that the virus is carried in breastmilk. The main risk of breastfeeding with COVID-19 is close contact between you and your baby. Your health professionals will let you know how to manage this risk as you get started with breastfeeding. This will include wearing a mask and maintaining good hand hygiene.
Flu immunisation and COVID-19
All pregnant women should have the flu immunisation.
Flu immunisation won’t protect you against COVID-19. But it will protect you from influenza, which is bad for pregnant women and their babies.
If you have the flu immunisation, this can also help health professionals rule out flu if you have flu-like symptoms.
It’s important to look after yourself during pregnancy. You can do this by going to your antenatal appointments, resting, eating well and doing some physical activity. It’s also important to stay connected with others.