If you’re pregnant and worried about coronavirus, read on to learn more about the symptoms and how COVID-19 might affect you during pregnancy.
You’re probably reading lots about coronavirus (COVID-19) and wondering what it means for you and your pregnancy. You might be feeling anxious or perhaps confused by all the information and opinions out there.
As with anything else on your mind, we’re here to make sure you have reliable, accurate information to support you in your decisions and experience.
You might find it useful to watch this NHS video about your care during your pregnancy and labour:
How will coronavirus affect me if I'm pregnant?
Pregnant women don’t appear to be more severely unwell if they do develop coronavirus compared to the general public (RCOG, 2020). A small proportion of pregnant women with coronavirus have required admission to hospital for treatment (RCOG, 2020). At the moment, it’s thought that the majority of pregnant women will experience only mild or moderate cold/flu-like symptoms (RCOG, 2020).
The symptoms of coronavirus are:
- A high temperature - you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you don't need to measure your temperature).
- A new, continuous cough - this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours.
- A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste - have you noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal? [new symptom added by the Chief Medical Officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on 18 May]
During pregnancy, you are more vulnerable to getting infections than a woman who is not pregnant. If you have an underlying condition, such as asthma or diabetes, you may be more unwell if you have coronavirus (RCOG, 2020).
A study by the UK Obstetric Surveillance System (UKOSS), released on 11 May, has provided some new insights into how the coronavrius has affected pregnant women. The first report from this study looked at the outcomes of 427 pregnant women admitted to hospital with coronavirus and their babies during the pandemic. Here are the key learnings:
- Most women in the study required only ward treatment and were discharged home well. Around one in 10 women required intensive care.
- The majority of women who did become severely ill were in their third trimester of pregnancy, which is why social distancing is particularly important from 28 weeks of pregnancy.
- Pregnant women from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds were more likely than other women to be admitted to hospital for coronavirus.
- Pregnant women over the age of 35, those who were overweight or obese, and those who had pre-existing medical problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, were also at higher risk of developing severe illness.
The key message to pregnant women right now is to contact your midwife or someone in your maternity team if you have any concerns, questions or something doesn't feel right. Please don't worry in silence.
What about self-isolation and social distancing during pregnancy?
On 16 March, the UK Government added pregnant women to the list of people at moderate risk (clinically vulnerable). The health guidelines recommend that those in this group should take "particular care to minimise their social contact". The group already included people over 70 and other adults who would normally be advised to have the flu vaccine (such as those with chronic diseases).
In their guidance, RCOG says that this decision was driven by 'the desire to be very cautious about pregnant women'. Key advice for pregnant women from RCOG is:
- Follow the guidance on staying alert and safe - social distancing (this guidance covers England only - if you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you should follow the specific advice in those parts of the UK).
- Keep mobile and hydrated to reduce the risk of blood clots in pregnancy.
- Stay active with regular exercise, a healthy balanced diet, and folic acid and vitamin D supplements to help support a healthy pregnancy.
- Attend all of your pregnancy scans and antenatal appointments unless you’re told not to.
- Contact your maternity team if you have concerns about the wellbeing of yourself or your unborn baby.
This, of course, can all mean significant changes for pregnant women when it comes to their lifestyle and work. Have a read of our article for suggestions about ways to manage your time, as well as physical and mental health, when social distancing or self-isolating.
What about my antenatal appointments?
We all know how important it is for pregnant women to attend antenatal and postnatal care. The current advice says that if you are well, you should attend your antenatal care as normal.
According to latest guidance from RCM and RCOG, a minimum of six face-to-face antenatal consultations should take place during the coronavirus pandemic.
If you have symptoms of possible coronavirus infection, you should postpone routine visits until after the isolation period is over. Read more about this here.
What happens if my midwife appointments are cancelled?
If your appointment is cancelled or delayed, and you don't know when you'll next be in touch with the maternity team, let them know by using the contact numbers you received at booking (RCOG, 2020).
Can my partner attend my antenatal appointment with me?
The latest information for pregnant women states that you will be asked to keep the number of people with you at antenatal appointments to a minimum. This will include being asked to not bring children with you to maternity appointments (RCOG, 2020).
Will it be hard to get support due to the strain on hospitals?
If you have any concerns at all, contact your midwife, although it might take a little longer than usual for them to get back to you. It's worth remembering that maternity units across the country are working extra hard at the moment to manage the situation and facilitate the choices women have made (RCOG, 2020).
I'm due an appointment but what if I can't get through to my doctor’s surgery or midwife team?
If you're due to attend a routine scan, appointment or visit in the coming days, it's best to contact your maternity unit. They will advise you of what to do and what the plan is. You'll still need to attend your appointment but do note that it might change (RCOG, 2020).
BAME and pregnant?
The UKOSS study in May told us more about how coronavirus affects women and their babies during pregnancy and birth. It revealed a significant and worrying fact that 55% of pregnant women admitted to hospital with coronavirus were from a black, Asian or ethnic minority (BAME) background. Read more about support and information if you're pregnant and BAME here.
Where do I get information about coronavirus and pregnancy?
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:
- What effect will coronavirus have on my baby if I am diagnosed with the infection?
- Will I be able to bring someone with me to my scans?
- What can I do to reduce my risk of catching coronavirus?
- What is the advice for pregnant women with older children attending school/nursery/external childcare?
- What should I do if I think I may have coronavirus or been exposed?
- Can I still attend my antenatal appointments if I am in self-isolation?
This is an exceptional time to be pregnant but we’re here to help you feel confident about your journey to parenthood. Take a look at our articles about coronavirus and birth, breastfeeding and using formula, and check the sources in the section below for more information and support.
Should I get the coronavirus vaccine if I'm pregnant?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) published updated guidance on COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy on 30 December 2020. They confirmed that there is not enough evidence to recommended routine use of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy, though there are no known safety concerns. However, they advised that certain groups of pregnant women should consider having the vaccination.
The JCVI advise that pregnant women who are clinically extremely vulnerable should consider having a Covid-19 vaccine during pregnancy. This is because their underlying condition puts them at a higher risk of experiencing serious complications of COVID-19. They also advise that pregnant women who are frontline health or social care workers, including carers in residential homes, discuss the option of vaccination. This is because their risk of exposure to COVID-19 is higher.
A health professional will discuss the benefits and risks of vaccination in pregnancy on an individual basis, to help you make an informed decision. Be aware that lots of anti-vaccine stories are spread online and they’re not based on scientific evidence.
Further information can be found on the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website: https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/guidelines/coronavirus-pregnancy/covid-19-virus-infection-and-pregnancy/
Page last reviewed: 31 December 2020
The NHS website has a specific pregnancy and coronavirus page, which has all the latest information and guidance about support services.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Royal College of Midwives and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have produced information on coronavirus for pregnant women and their families.
The Department of Health and Social Care website is being updated daily with guidance and what the government is doing about the virus.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
Interactive, engaging and social, our live online antenatal course is a great way for you to meet other local parents, and get essential unbiased information and knowledge about pregnancy, birth and early days with your baby.
For more information about coronavirus in various languages see here.
NHSa. (2020) Pregnancy and coronavirus. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/people-at-higher-risk-from-coronavirus/pregnancy-and-coronavirus/ [accessed 18 May 2020]
NHSb. (2020) Coronavirus (COVID-19). Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
[accessed 16 March 2020]
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG). (2020) COVID-19 Virus Infection and Pregnancy. Available at: https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/guidelines/coronavirus-pregnancy/covid-19-virus-infection-and-pregnancy/ [accessed 18 May 2020]