If you're wondering how coronavirus might affect your labour and birth, here's what you need to know.
How might coronavirus affect your labour, birth plans and the arrival of your newborn baby? Read on to find out the facts…
You might find it useful to watch this NHS video about your care during your pregnancy and labour:
Do I need to change my birth plan because of coronavirus?
Hopefully it will reassure you to know that maternity units are working around the clock to manage additional pressures as a result of COVID-19 and support women to still have the birth they want (RCOG, 2020).
If you have no symptoms of coronavirus and have chosen to give birth at home or in a midwife-led unit that is not within an obstetric unit, it's important to say that these services rely on the availability of ambulance services to allow for rapid transfer to hospital, and the right number of staff to keep you safe. If these are not in place, it is possible that your Trust or Board may not be able to provide these services (RCOG, 2020). Talk to your maternity team to find out more.
What if I'm pregnant and have symptoms or I'm self-isolating?
If you think you may have coronavirus, or know you have it and you’re self-isolating, there will be different guidance and recommendations for your birth (see box below).
Your maternity team will discuss your choice of where to give birth with you if you have coronavirus symptoms and were planning to give birth at home or in a midwife centre. This is because an obstetric centre can provide continuous electronic monitoring for your baby if needed (RCOG, 2020a,b).
Advice for pregnant women with suspected or confirmed coronavirus
For up-to-date information about your pregnancy, labour and birth if you have coronavirus symptoms or you are self-isolating, please check the RCOG website. They can help answer questions, such as:
- What should I do if I think I may have coronavirus or been exposed?
- How will I be tested for coronavirus?
- What should I do if I’m asked to self-isolate?
- Can I still attend my antenatal appointments if I am in self-isolation?
- How will my care be managed after I have recovered from coronavirus?
- What do I do if I feel unwell or I’m worried about my baby during self-isolation?
- Will being in self-isolation for suspected or confirmed coronavirus affect where I give birth?
- Will being in self-isolation for suspected or confirmed coronavirus affect how I give birth?
- What happens if I go into labour during my self-isolation period?
- Could I pass coronavirus to my baby?
- Will my baby be tested for coronavirus?
- Will I be able to stay with my baby/give skin-to-skin if I have suspected or confirmed coronavirus?
Will I be able to have my birth partner with me during labour and birth?
Yes, you should still be encouraged to have a birth partner with you during labour and birth (RCOG, 2020). We know what a huge difference having a trusted birth partner with you during labour can have.
If your birth partner has symptoms of coronavirus, they will not be allowed to go into the maternity suite with you though. This is to safeguard your health and the maternity staff supporting you (RCOG, 2020).
You should also know that local Trusts might restrict visitors. This could mean that partners might not able to attend routine antenatal appointments, or stay with you on antenatal or postnatal wards (RCOG, 2020). Again, talk to your maternity team for further advice or support.
If I get coronavirus, will my baby catch it?
Not a lot is known about babies catching coronavirus. A small number of babies have been diagnosed with coronavirus shortly after birth, so there is a chance that infection might have occurred in the womb (RCOG, 2020a). But it isn't yet certain whether transmission was before or soon after birth (RCOG, 2020a). Your maternity team will maintain strict infection control measures at the time of your birth and closely monitor your baby.
After your baby is born, your maternity team will monitor them closely if you test positive for coronavirus (RCOG, 2020b). Your baby would also have a test for coronavirus if you test positive (RCOG, 2020a). For more information, see the RCOG website.
Where do I get information about coronavirus and birth?
The expert guidelines and understanding about COVID-19 is changing on a daily basis. To make sure you have the most reliable information, refer to the guidelines on coronavirus and pregnancy published by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Royal College of Midwives and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
The guidance includes answers to a range of questions such as:
- Will I be able to have my birth partner with me if I am being induced?
- Will my birth partner be able to stay with me if I have a caesarean or assisted delivery that happens in an operating theatre?
- Will I be able to have my birth partner with me on the postnatal ward?
- Is there any advice for birth partners during the coronavirus pandemic?
It might feel like an uncertain, worrying time but your maternity team will still be there for you. Midwives and obstetricians are working hard to make sure all women feel supported through their labour.
Page last updated: 14 April 2020
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The RCM has produced this helpful FAQ with advice and information on different aspects of pregnancy and birth for women and their families.
For more information and updates about birth and the coronavirus, see the RCOG website.
For more information about coronavirus in various languages see here.
RCOG. (2020a) Coronavirus infection and pregnancy. Available at: https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/guidelines/coronavirus-pregnancy/covid-19-virus-infection-and-pregnancy/ (accessed 18th March 2020)
RCOG. (2020b) Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in pregnancy. Available at: https://www.rcm.org.uk/media/3780/coronavirus-covid-19-virus-infection-in-pregnancy-2020-03-09.pdf (accessed 18th March 2020