COVID-19: How will it affect pregnancy and birth?

Your questions about pregnancy, labour and COVID-19 answered by an expert

by Wellbeing of Women | 19th May 2020

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If you’re expecting a baby during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re not alone.

Here Dr Ed Coats, Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Wellbeing of Women Ambassador, answers your questions about pregnancy and birth and how the new coronavirus could affect things.

Is a caesarean section safe?

Yes. A caesarean section remains a common procedure that's being undertaken during the coronavirus pandemic.

It's very frequently carried out using a regional anaesthetic block (a spinal or epidural anaesthetic), and these procedures are no less safe due to the current pandemic.

There's potentially higher risk to the staff looking after you if you have COVID-19 and require a general anaesthetic, which is a rare eventuality.

This is why such great care is being taken by all staff in the hospitals to wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) throughout your labour and if assistance such as a caesarean section is required.

Is an epidural still safe?

Yes. We continue to perform epidurals in labour as requested by the women. The COVID-19 virus does not impact on this.

Are children allowed into hospitals to visit their mothers if the mother is held overnight or in hospital for several days after giving birth?

It is always important to check you local hospital’s policy.

In general it's been recommended by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists that women in labour should have a single birth partner who can also come into theatre too if necessary.

Sadly, partners cannot come onto the wards due to restrictions around social distancing in the hospital, so it is very unlikely for a child to be permitted.

If pregnant, is it advisable to avoid going outside to exercise? Does this change or risk increase after the 28-week marker?

Gentle exercise is important while you are pregnant and this remains the case during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Women who are beyond 28 weeks into their pregnancy should currently avoiding social contact.

If they leave home to exercise or otherwise, they should adhere strictly to social distancing advice and not come into contact with other people remaining at least two metres away from any social contacts they may meet.

Is it advisable to avoid taking a newborn baby outside for walks due to risk of virus?

There is no evidence to suggest newborns are at increased risk from going outside.

If you have a newborn you will be currently socially distancing until government advice changes.

Ensure that a strict two metres is maintained between yourselves and other people.

Should I take extra precautions to prevent my newborn catching the coronavirus?

Unfortunately the social distancing measures are likely to remain in place for many months to come. It is most important that these are adhered to.

A baby’s immune system is immature and therefore it is important to avoid contact at the moment. Until there is a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 it is impossible to say how long these distancing measures must be followed.

Certainly if you have a newborn that is considered vulnerable (e.g prematurity, immunocompromised, oxygen-dependent chronic lung disease, cardiac disease) reducing the risk of infection with reduced social contact and strict hand washing is essential.

Once the current 'lockdown' measures are relaxed it is important to ensure any future visitors are strict with hand washing and avoid coughing or breathing for long periods in close proximity to your baby, although the likelihood that this will result in a serious infection for the baby is more difficult to predict.

This article was last updated on 19th May 2020.

For more information on pregnancy, birth and COVID-19, visit the Royal College of Obsestricians and Gynaecologists' website.