Pregnancy and Childbirth During COVID-19
It’s compassionate maternity teams.
If you’re having a baby soon, you probably have a lot of questions about the COVID-19 vaccines and how the coronavirus could affect your birth experience. We’re taking extra precautions at our care centers. And behind our masks, we’re smiling with you.
We have answers to your frequently asked COVID-19 questions. Contact your provider for more information about your pre- and postnatal care.
Frequently Asked Questions
- We know families may have some questions or concerns about being in a hospital right now.
- Upon arrival to the hospital you’ll be asked a few screening questions and given a mask.
- You’re allowed to bring two support people with you.
- You’ll notice, staff, patients and visitors wearing masks in the hospital.
- Sutter hospitals are providing COVID-19 swab testing for mothers who are either unvaccinated or vaccinated and immunocompromised.
- Check with your provider to see if you should get tested prior to coming to the hospital during your pregnancy.
- Knowing your COVID-19 status will help your team make informed decisions about the appropriate level of maternal and newborn care you and your baby may need and appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment).
- Clinicians are altering prenatal appointment schedules to minimize the number of times you need to leave home.
- Tours, prenatal classes and outpatient lactation support are being offered remotely. As COVID-19 rates decrease in some communities, some small group in-person classes will be available.
- These adjustments allow our teams to offer you prenatal education and postnatal support.
Labor and Delivery
- Pandemic or not, we follow strict guidelines to keep the hospital clean and safe.
- The Labor & Delivery staff take precautions when caring for patients each day, so these procedures are not new.
- You’ll receive additional information about arriving at the hospital from your care team, but please feel free to ask them any questions you have about coming to the hospital to deliver your baby.
You can bring two support people with you, whether it’s your partner, a doula, a family member or friend. They’ll need to be healthy to enter the hospital and will wear a face mask.
- To help limit the spread of COVID-19, patients and visitors must be masked while at the hospital. For expectant mothers and their support people, this means you’ll be masked when you arrive at the facility.
- Expectant mothers and their support people don’t need to be masked while they are in their room, unless healthcare workers are present. The same masking protocols apply during postpartum and newborn care.
- You may bring personal items such as sweats/pajamas and your favorite pillow.
- Your support people should also bring in personal items such as medication and toiletries.
- Parents are encouraged to bring in their car seat (leaving the base secured and fastened in the car) upon arrival, so you won’t have to leave the building to retrieve it later.
- You may also want to bring a cooler with any special snacks/foods you’d like to have in your room.
- Our teams are available to provide you postpartum support. Some resources may be online rather than in person.
- Your care team will share resources, including lactation support, postpartum classes and referrals for pump rentals.
- You and your partner are welcome to spend time with your baby in the NICU.
- You and your partner will continue to wear your masks while in the NICU.
- If you or your partner have any symptoms or are feeling ill, please call the NICU ahead of time to ask if you’re able to come to the NICU.
- If you’re discharged before your baby, we recommend attempting to limit your entry and exit to the NICU and to shelter in place at home as much as possible.
- We want you and your partner to have time with your baby at the bedside, but there may be times when one or both of you may need to step away to maintain social distancing.
COVID-19 Positive Mothers
- If you test positive for the virus, precautions will be taken before, during and after delivery.
- Your provider will be notified and will discuss care during your pregnancy. If you’re close to delivery, your provider will discuss the plan for your admission to the hospital.
- Watch for symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath (seek care right away if you have difficulty breathing), fever (over 100.0 F or higher), chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, fatigue (tired, weak), nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or loss of appetite and report any illness or changes to their doctor.
There is not enough data to determine with certainty whether pregnant women are more susceptible to acquiring the SAR-CoV-2 virus. However, recent reports from the CDC and elsewhere suggest that pregnancy is an independent risk factor for COVID-19 disease severity.
- The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly by close contact with an infected person through respiratory droplets. Limited data suggests that the COVID-19 virus does not cross the placenta. Few cases of COVID-19 have been reported in newborns.
- The majority of pregnant people with COVID-19 have given birth to healthy babies.
- We recommend family members who have been in close contact with you discuss testing and monitoring with their primary doctor.
- They should watch for symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath (seek care right away if they have difficulty breathing), fever (over 100.0 F or higher), chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, fatigue (tired, weak), nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or loss of appetite, and report any illness to their doctor.
- You may have up to two healthy support people accompany you in labor.
- Your support people can remain with you throughout your stay.
- Your support people will be asked to keep their entry and exit of the hospital to a minimum.
- During labor, some things may be a little different from what you expected. You’ll have a dedicated nurse, and fewer staff will come in and out of your room. Some communications may be done over the phone instead of face-to-face.
- You’ll need to wear a mask. Those taking care of you will wear facemasks, eye shields, gowns and gloves.
- Being COVID-19 positive doesn't affect the mode of delivery (vaginal versus cesarean) or your choice of pain control.
- Care will be decided through shared decision making between you and your provider/pediatrician.
- A healthy person may visit the baby and participate in their care. Your baby’s pediatrician will provide information on how to care for your baby when you’re discharged from the hospital.
- In limited studies, COVID-19 hasn’t been detected in breast milk. However, we don’t know for sure whether mothers with COVID-19 can spread the virus via breast milk.
- We recommend hand hygiene prior to directly breastfeeding or pumping.
- If you choose to directly breastfeed, wear a facemask and wash your hands before each feeding.
- If you choose to express breast milk:
- Express breast milk to establish and maintain milk supply.
- A dedicated breast pump will be provided.
- Wash hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and before expressing breast milk.
Your provider will discuss the risks and benefits of being tested and how testing could benefit you and your baby.
COVID-19 Vaccine During Pregnancy and Postpartum
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued emergency use authorizations for the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. There’s currently limited data on the safety of these COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy and lactation. However according to the CDC, more clinical trials and studies for this population are underway.
According to the CDC, while the overall risk of severe illness from COVID-19 is low, pregnant people with COVID-19 have an increased risk of severe illness. This includes illness that results in ICU admission, mechanical ventilation and death compared with nonpregnant women of reproductive age. Additionally, pregnant people with COVID-19 might be at increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth, compared with pregnant women without COVID-19.
Current CDC guidance states people who want to get pregnant now or in the future may receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Based on current knowledge, COVID-19 vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk to a person trying to become pregnant in the short or long term. In addition, there’s no evidence suggesting that fertility problems are a side effect of any vaccine.
None of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines contain the live virus. This means the vaccines cannot make you sick with COVID-19.
Vaccines are designed to stimulate the human body’s own protective immune response, so if a person is infected, their immune system can recognize the infection and react to it. The CDC reminds people that although COVID-19 vaccines are effective at keeping you from getting sick, scientists are still learning how well vaccines prevent you from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to others, even if you don’t have symptoms. Early data show the vaccines do help keep people with no symptoms from spreading COVID-19, but we’re learning more as more people get vaccinated.
Clinical trials for the current COVID-19 vaccines haven’t included people who are breastfeeding, and the effects of vaccination are still not fully known. In general, it’s possible to pass protection in the form of antibodies to your baby through breastfeeding. A new study from Providence Portland Medical Center in Oregon revealed that after a COVID-19 vaccination, it appeared women were passing antibodies in breast milk that may be protective for infants. As more people are vaccinated, more data will likely become available.
COVID-19 vaccine side effects are not expected to be any different for pregnant people than for non-pregnant people. Side effects can occur after receiving any of the available COVID-19 vaccines. If you receive the mRNA vaccine, the side effects may be greater after the second dose. Side effects often feel like flu symptoms and can start within hours or days of receiving the vaccine. The side effects usually go away within a few days.
Common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine include:
In the arm where you got the shot:
Throughout the rest of your body:
- Muscle pain
For three weeks after receiving the Janssen/J&J vaccine, you should be on the lookout for possible symptoms of a blood clot with low platelets. These include:
- Severe or persistent headaches or blurred vision
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Leg swelling
- Persistent abdominal pain
- Easy bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the injection site
Some people have experienced allergic reactions after getting the vaccine. The CDC recommends all vaccine recipients, including pregnant people, talk with their healthcare provider if they have a history of severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to any other vaccines or injections.
If you have symptoms from COVID-19, you should meet all the criteria below before getting a COVID-19 vaccine:
- At least 10 days have passed since symptom onset.
- At least 24 hours have passed since resolution of fever without use of fever-reducing medications.
- Other symptoms have improved.
If you tested positive but don’t have symptoms from COVID-19, wait 10 days after the first positive test was collected before getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
The CDC advises COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines may be given at any time. You don’t need to wait between vaccines, and you can receive the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines on the same day.
If you think you have coronavirus, take these steps to find care.
If your clinician determines you should be tested for COVID-19, you'll be referred to a testing location.