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 to go to hospital and have intensive care.
- Compared with pregnant women without COVID-19, pregnant women with COVID-19 are more likely to give birth early. Also, their babies are more likely to need time in a neonatal intensive care unit (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, including a booster, is recommended at any stage of pregnancy.
Good personal hygiene can also help to protect you from COVID-19:
- Wash your hands carefully and often. Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds. You can use hand sanitiser if you don’t have soap and water.
- 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.
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. Surgical masks give better protection than cloth masks.
- If your work puts you at high risk of exposure to COVID-19, consider asking to be reassigned to lower-risk duties or to work from home.
- Sanitise frequently touched surfaces in your home, like benchtops and doorknobs, with household detergent and water.
- Improve airflow by keeping doors and windows open or using fans if you have visitors in your home.
- Have gatherings outdoors where possible.
- Avoid smoking, and stay away from cigarette smoke. If you or your partner smoke, now is a great time to quit.
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 last 2-7 days. Recovery from symptoms like tiredness might take several weeks, depending on how severe the illness has been.
What to do if you’re pregnant and have COVID-19 symptoms
Check your state or territory health department website for more information about what test to get and where to get it.
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.
How to manage COVID-19 symptoms for pregnant women
There’s currently no specific treatment for COVID-19 that can make it go away more quickly.
- paracetamol (for example, Panadol and Dymadon) for pain
- plenty of fluids – for example, water or oral rehydration fluids
- soothing drinks for a sore throat
- saline nasal spray or steam for a blocked nose
- plenty of rest plus some gentle physical activity
- food if you’re hungry, especially fresh fruit and vegetables.
If COVID-19 symptoms get worse: what to do
You need to seek urgent medical attention by calling an ambulance on 000 if you:
- have severe shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, or your breathing gets worse suddenly
- are coughing up blood
- go blue in the face or lips
- feel cold or clammy, or your skin looks pale or patchy
- have chest pain
- faint or feel faint
- are confused, agitated or drowsy
- have a rash that doesn’t fade when you press a glass firmly against your skin.
Tell the ambulance service about your symptoms and diagnosis, and then follow their directions.
You should go to a hospital emergency department if you:
- have increasing shortness of breath
- are vomiting and can’t keep fluids down
- have a severe and constant headache
- have a fever greater than 38.5°C, which doesn’t come down with pain relief and fluids
- aren’t urinating much.
Protecting others when you have COVID-19
Your 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 5-7 days, depending on your state or territory government requirements. It might also include measures like wearing masks, improving airflow by keeping doors and windows open or using fans, and having good personal and home hygiene. Your health service will 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 for pregnant women with COVID-19
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.
Delayed cord clamping and skin-to-skin contact with your baby following birth are 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 will 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 when 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. This will include wearing a mask and maintaining good hand hygiene.