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, especially vaccinated women, will have only mild or moderate symptoms.
But some pregnant women with COVID-19 might get complications, which creates certain risks for them and their babies. These risks include hospitalisation, neonatal intensive care and premature birth.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has the latest updates on COVID-19 and pregnancy. You can also visit your state or territory government’s COVID-19 webpage, or call the Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 or Healthdirect on 1800 022 222.
Reducing your risk of getting COVID-19 during pregnancy
If you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy, it’s very important to take protective measures against COVID-19.
The best way to reduce your risk of getting COVID-19 and its 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 m away from anyone who’s sneezing or coughing, and avoid close contact with anyone with COVID-19.
- Wear a face mask in crowded places – for example, on public transport or in shopping centres. Also wear a 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.
- Use household detergent and water or disinfectant wipes to clean frequently touched surfaces in your home, like benchtops and door handles.
- Improve airflow by keeping doors and windows open or using fans if you have visitors in your home.
- Have gatherings outdoors where possible.
Symptoms of COVID-19
Symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- symptoms like those of a cold or flu, including runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, cough, headache, and muscle or joint aches and pains
- difficulty breathing
- nausea or loss of appetite
- diarrhoea or vomiting
- temporary 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.
When to get a COVID-19 test
Check your state or territory health department website for more information about which type of 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 when you’re pregnant
There’s currently no specific treatment for COVID-19 that can make it go away more quickly.
- paracetamol for pain
- plenty of fluids – for example, water or oral rehydration fluids
- soothing drinks like honey and lemon teas or throat lozenges 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.
Note that antibiotics don’t treat COVID-19.
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 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 severe headache.
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 passing much urine.
Protecting others when you have COVID-19
Your state or territory health department website will tell you how to protect others from infection.
It’s recommended that you stay at home with no visitors until you no longer have symptoms. It’s also recommended that you take other protective 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 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 Domestic Family and Sexual 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.
Giving birth when you have 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 get COVID-19 from you after birth. Your health professionals will watch your baby closely after birth for any signs of infection.
Your health professionals will also advise you on how to reduce your newborn’s risk of getting 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.
Breastfeeding when you have COVID-19
You can breastfeed your baby when you have COVID-19. There’s currently no evidence that the virus is carried in breastmilk. In fact, your breastmilk contains antibodies against COVID-19. This is good for your baby because these antibodies might help to protect your baby against COVID-19.
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.