Although current research suggests that healthy pregnant women are no more likely than others to contract COVID-19, pregnant women are more at risk of becoming seriously unwell if they catch the virus. This increases the chances of complications, including admission to ICU and premature birth.
With new, more transmissible variants in circulation, it’s really important to keep yourself safe. As well as continuing to wear a mask in public spaces, especially indoors, washing your hands regularly and keeping to social distancing, getting the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your baby from the effects of COVID-19.
Make sure you attend all your regular antenatal appointments, including scans. Some appointments may be done over the phone or virtually, but they’re still really important to check on your health and the baby’s progress. If you have any concerns about your pregnancy – including about the baby’s movement – contact your midwife or maternity services.
Try to keep mobile and hydrated to reduce the risk of blood clots in pregnancy, and stay active with regular exercise, like swimming, pilates or yoga. Maintain a healthy balanced diet, and take folic acid and vitamin D supplements to help support a healthy pregnancy.
Testing positive for COVID won’t change the level of support you’re given by your midwife, but it might change how that support is given. It may mean that antenatal appointments have to be done over the phone or virtually.
If you’ve had a positive test before you go into labour at the end of your pregnancy, make sure you let your maternity team know before you go to the hospital. That will enable them to put the proper measures in place, including different PPE, and make sure they’ve got everything they need to make sure you and baby are safe.
If you test positive for Coronavirus outside of a hospital setting, you should contact your midwife or maternity team to make them aware of your diagnosis. If you have no symptoms or mild symptoms, you will be advised isolate and recover at home. If you have more severe symptoms, you might be treated in hospital.
Pregnant women who have been advised to self-isolate should stay indoors and avoid contact with others for 10 days. If you live with other people, they should all stay at home for at least 14 days, to avoid spreading the infection.
Follow the NHS guidance on when and how to self-isolate.
You may wish to consider online fitness routines to keep active, such as pregnancy yoga or Pilates. Keeping mobile and hydrated, even if you are self-isolating, is important to reduce the risk of blood clots in pregnancy. Find out more about exercise in pregnancy.
All pregnant women are recommended to take 10 micrograms of vitamin D supplementation daily. This is especially important if you are self-isolating as you may not be getting enough vitamin D from sunlight.
If you have concerns about the wellbeing of yourself or your unborn baby during your self-isolation period, contact your midwife or, if out-of-hours, your maternity unit. They will provide further advice, including whether you need to attend hospital.
If you are advised to go to the maternity unit or hospital, you will be asked to travel by private transport, or arranged hospital transport and to alert the maternity unit reception once on site before going into the hospital. You will be required to wear a mask or face covering.
The vast majority of pregnant women who get COVID-19 will experience only mild or moderate symptoms. However, increasing numbers of pregnant women are being admitted to hospital severely unwell with COVID symptoms, causing complications for themselves and their babies.
Since very early in the pandemic, we’ve known that women in the third trimester of pregnancy are at highest risk of complications due to COVID-19. A study from May 2021 found higher rates of preterm birth, pre-eclampsia, and emergency caesarean delivery study, while an earlier study found one in 10 pregnant women in the UK who were admitted with COVID required admission to intensive care.
Black and Asian women and those from minority ethnic backgrounds are more likely to be admitted to hospital too, as are pregnant women over the age of 35, those who are overweight or obese, and those who have pre-existing medical problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
• The UK is conducting near-real-time surveillance (observation) of women who are hospitalised and test positive for coronavirus during pregnancy, through well-established systems already used by all maternity units – this is the UK Obstetric Surveillance System (UKOSS).
• Imperial College London are also running a surveillance programme (PAN-COVID) to monitor pregnancy and neonatal outcomes for women with coronavirus. Other maternity surveillance programmes are being funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR). You can also ask your maternity team about any local research that is taking place in your area.
• The COVID-19 Symptom Study app has been developed by King’s College London and health science company ZOE. Members of the public, including pregnant women, can use this app to report on their health during the coronavirus pandemic.
• A national survey study, ‘Babies Born Better’, is currently underway. The survey is inviting all women who have given birth in the UK over the last 3 years, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, to understand more about their experiences. The study aims to look at what works best in maternity care, both usually, and during COVID-19. Information about the study that the survey is part of is here. The link to the survey is here.
Becoming pregnant during the coronavirus pandemic is a matter of personal choice. However, you might like to take a look at the Faculty of Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) website for useful on planning a pregnancy at this time.
You should contact your midwife or antenatal clinic to inform them that you are currently in self-isolation for suspected/confirmed coronavirus and ask for advice on going to any antenatal appointments.
It is likely that a virtual appointment will be offered instead, and routine antenatal appointments will be delayed until isolation ends. If your midwife or doctor advises that your appointment cannot wait, the necessary arrangements will be made for you to be seen. For example, you may be asked to attend at a different time, or in a different clinic, to protect others.
To reduce transmission of coronavirus in hospitals, you and your partner will be asked to wear a face covering or mask when you attend a clinical environment for appointments as stated in the guidance for Scotland and England. All visitors and outpatients, including pregnant women attending antenatal appointments or scans, must always wear face coverings to protect themselves, other women and staff from coronavirus. The same recommendations on face-coverings apply when receiving visits at home.
At present hospital inpatients, including women giving birth, are not required to wear face coverings or masks. The RCM has developed guidance about the wearing of face coverings in labour.
If you live in Wales or Northern Ireland, ask your midwife about the local guidance about face coverings and check on the local Trust or Board websites.
If you have COVID symptoms or have tested positive, let your midwife know. When you go into early labour, let your maternity team know and come into the maternity unit rather than stay at home. This is to keep you, and those caring for you, safe.
If you have COVID, or even think you might, Being in the hospital is the safest option for you and your baby. If you have a high temperature, or if you are ill as a result of any infection, including COVID-19, your baby is more likely to show signs of distress in labour. The sort of close, continuous monitoring needed during labour can only be done in hospital.
It’s safer for the midwives and other staff caring for you too. Hospital labour rooms have a specialised deep clean before each admission and midwives have access to the full range of protective equipment. Being in hospital also means that other members of the team are on hand if you need more or different care.
If you are in the UK, you should follow the advice given by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which is being regularly updated in line with the evolving situation.
Make sure you have adequate insurance arrangements prior to travel and check that your travel insurance will provide cover for birth and care of your newborn baby if you give birth while abroad.
There are differences between the UK countries in relation to quarantine regulations when returning from countries outside the UK, check on your individual country Government websites for your local information.
Can I still attend my antenatal appointments if I am in self-isolation?