The coronavirus outbreak is spreading and pregnant women are worried about giving birth if they have COVID-19, the official name of the virus. Hospitals and maternity wards have protocols in place to protect you and your newborn. It’s important that you make any and all healthcare decisions with your doctor.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is helping healthcare facilities that provide obstetric care, labor and delivery, recovery and inpatient postpartum care for pregnant patients with confirmed coronavirus or suspected of having the virus prepare for your labor and delivery. Here’s what you need to know:

When it’s Time to Deliver Your Baby

  • Notify the hospital that it’s time for you to come in. Give them plenty of notice so they have the time they need to prepare for your arrival. This may include identifying the most appropriate room for labor and delivery; ensuring infection prevention/control supplies and personal protection equipment (PPE) are ready; and alerting your healthcare team about infection control requirements.
  • If you need to be transported to the hospital by ambulance or other emergency medical services, alert the company (and 911 if you call them) so they can use good infection control and other protections. They will also remind the emergency room/maternity ward that you have or are suspected of having COVID-19.

During Hospitalization

  • You will likely be placed in a single-person room with a dedicated bathroom. The door should remain closed.
  • Your healthcare team will employ the CDC’s standard and advanced precautions for infection prevention and control. This may include asking you to wear a facemask to prevent transmission to others, including your infant. The team will wear respirators or facemasks, gowns, gloves and eye protection (PPE). These protection items should be put on before entering your room and after leaving your room.
  • Healthcare teams caring for infants born to mothers with confirmed COVID-19 will exercise the same cautions and procedures.
  • Visitors will be restricted and encouraged to use alternatives such as video-call apps on cell phones or tablets. If visitation must occur, the hospital may require visits to be scheduled and controlled, plus:
    • Visitors will be screened for fever and respiratory symptoms. Also for underlying illness putting them at higher risk for COVID-19) and ability to comply with precautions.
    • Facilities may provide instruction, before visitors enter patients’ rooms, on hand hygiene, limiting surfaces touched, and use of personal protection equipment while in the patient’s room.
  • Visitors should not be present during specimen collection procedures.
  • Visitors will be allowed to only visit the patient room. They should not go to other locations in the facility.

Mother/Baby Contact

  • Because it is unknown if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can transmit the virus to her baby before, during or after delivery, the hospital will likely take extra precautions to avoid any potential complications. These may include
    • Temporarily separating (e.g., separate rooms) mothers who have or are suspected of having COVID-19 from her baby until the mother’s symptoms clear.
    • The risks and benefits of temporary separation of the mother from her baby should be discussed with the mother by the healthcare team.
    • A separate isolation room should be available for the infant while they remain a PUI (person under investigation). Healthcare facilities could limit visitors, with the exception of a healthy parent or caregiver. Visitors will be instructed to wear gown, gloves, face mask, and eye protection (PPE). If another healthy family or staff member is present to provide care (e.g., diapering, bathing) and feeding for the newborn, they should use gowns, gloves, face masks, and eye protection.
    • The decision to discontinue temporary separation of the mother from her baby will likely be made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with clinicians, infection prevention and control specialists, and public health officials. The decision should take into account disease severity, illness signs and symptoms, and results of laboratory testing for the virus that causes COVID-19.
    • If it’s necessary that the newborn stay with his/her ill mother in the same hospital room, the hospital will take measures to reduce exposure of the newborn to the virus that causes COVID-19:
      • Physical barriers (e.g., a curtain between the mother and newborn) and keeping the newborn at least 6 feet away from the ill mother.
      • If no other healthy adult is present in the room to care for the newborn, a mother who has confirmed COVID-19 or is a PUI should put on a facemask and practice good hand hygiene before each feeding or other close contact with her newborn. The facemask should remain in place during contact with the newborn.

Breastfeeding

  • During temporary separation, mothers who intend to breastfeed should be encouraged to express their breast milk to establish and maintain milk supply. If possible, a dedicated breast pump should be provided. Prior to expressing breast milk, mothers should practice hand hygiene. After each pumping session, all parts that come into contact with breast milk should be thoroughly washed and the entire pump should be appropriately disinfected per the manufacturer’s instructions. This expressed breast milk should be fed to the newborn by a healthy caregiver.
  • If a mother and newborn do room-in and the mother wishes to feed at the breast, she should put on a facemask and practice hand hygiene before each feeding.

All information is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.