As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact daily life inside and outside of the hospital, there are many questions and concerns about what this outbreak means during pregnancy. The brief comments below reflect both available data and expert opinions as of. Most advice for pregnant people regarding COVID-19 is similar to the advice for the general population in the United States.
The best sites for staying up to date are:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Guidance for Higher Risk Populations
- Massachusetts Department of Public Health: Information on the Outbreak of COVID-19
- Mass General Coronavirus News and Information
Q: Are pregnant people more susceptible to infection or at increased risk for severe illness, morbidity or mortality with COVID-19?
A: Pregnant people experience changes in their bodies that may increase their risk of serious infection. Studies during outbreaks of other related coronavirus infections (SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV) as well as influenza have demonstrated that pregnant people are more susceptible to severe illness. Data from the CDC and around the world suggests that pregnant people are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness defined as an increased risk of hospitalization, intensive care unit admission, need for mechanical ventilation and even death compared to reproductive-age, non-pregnant individuals. Encouragingly, even though the risk appears increased in pregnancy, these severe outcomes of COVID-19 remain rare among pregnant people. Pregnant people living with underlying conditions, such as obesity, hypertension or diabetes, may be at additional risk of severe disease.
Q: What is the best way for me to protect myself and my pregnancy from severe illness, morbidity or mortality from COVID-19?
A: COVID-19 vaccination prior to or during pregnancy is a safe and effective way to protect yourself against severe illness from COVID-19 and has been shown to help pregnant individuals pass COVID-19 fighting antibodies to the baby during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
For more questions about COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy, read our vaccine FAQs for pregnant and breastfeeding people.
Q: Does COVID-19 cause miscarriage?
A: Available data from infection during early pregnancy does not demonstrate an increase in miscarriage.
Q: Can COVID-19 Infection cause preterm birth?
A: Several studies found that pregnant people with COVID-19 infection had a higher rate of preterm delivery then would be expected in the population. The evidence at this point in the pandemic however is inconclusive about whether COVID-19 infection is associated with spontaneous preterm labor or whether the early deliveries are the result of medical decisions made to deliver early in the course of treating COVID-19 illness in the mother.
Q: Can pregnant people pass COVID-19 to their fetuses during pregnancy?
A: Although there are cases of reported transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from mother to baby during pregnancy, the transmission rate is low and generally associated with deliveries that happen within two weeks of infection.
Transmission of COVID-19 from mother to newborn, after birth, through infectious respiratory droplets is a concern and there have been a few cases reported of newborns as young as a few days old with infection. To reduce the risk of this transmission, mothers who are infected themselves or with symptoms that suggest infection will need to pay close attention to hand hygiene and wearing a mask when caring for their infants. While in our hospital, mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID 19 will stay in the same room with their babies,the health care team will help to arrange the room so that the baby can be six feet away from the mother to limit exposure. When possible, whether in the hospital or at home, care should be provided to the infant by a healthy caregiver until the mother has cleared the infection.
Q: I am pregnant and a health care worker. Can I work with patients who are potentially infected with COVID-19?
A: Pregnant health care workers, like all health care workers, are encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine and follow all updated infection control guidelines for their health care facilities to keep themselves and others safe in the health care environment. Some facilities may want to consider limiting exposure of unvaccinated, pregnant health care personnel to patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection, especially during higher-risk procedures (eg, aerosol-generating procedures), if feasible, based on staffing availability.
Q: I am pregnant and planning to travel this summer/fall. Should I cancel my trip?
A: Given the ongoing spread of COVID-19 variants in many states in the U.S. and around the globe, and because travel increases your chances of getting infected and spreading COVID-19, if you are unvaccinated, avoiding travel is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick.
If you must travel, be sure to discuss your plans with your OB providers and check the most up to date CDC guidance. Protect yourself and others during your trip by practicing hand hygiene, wearing a face covering in public, and maintaining six feet of physical distance from others particularly when indoors.
Q: I am pregnant and have been invited to a social gathering. Should I decline all social settings?
A: Given the potential increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness for pregnant people, it is important to take steps to protect yourself. This includes completing COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible, wearing a mask in indoor public places, washing hands frequently and maintaining physical distancing when possible. Gathering with others in the outdoor setting is reasonable, although it is important to discuss the risks of different social environments with your OB providers.
Q: I was recently visiting with a family member who has now tested positive for COVID-19. Should I be tested for coronavirus?
A: Some personal interactions are higher risk than others, depending on whether or not your are vaccinated, where the interaction took place (indoor or outdoor), how long you spent face to face with the infected individual, and whether face coverings were worn. A gathering that is lowest risk for COVID-19 exposure is one that occurs outside among vaccinated individuals. Your OB and/or primary care provider can guide you in evaluating symptoms and exposures and need for testing.
Q: I am pregnant and have a new fever, cough, and a headache. Could this be COVID-19?
A: Please call your OB's office to report your symptoms right away regardless of your vaccination status. Other symptoms to look out for include sore throat, runny nose/nasal congestion, shortness of breath, muscle aches and loss of smell or taste. Your OB provider will help you to arrange COVID-19 testing, if needed.
Q: I have heard that some prenatal care visits will be virtual. How will my pregnancy be monitored for complications?A: During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the OB/GYN Department at Mass General is committed to keeping all of our patients safe. In order to promote physical distancing and create a safe environment for you when you come to Mass General for visits, some prenatal care visits may be performed virtually—when doing so is safe for your pregnancy. It is important to understand that many appointments during pregnancy will still be held in person and these are safe to attend. We want to reassure you that we are always open 24/7 for all urgent care in the OB/GYN office, on the Labor and Delivery floor, and in the hospital. If you have an urgent question or concern, please call the OB office number which will be available day and night.
Q: I have heard that some hospitals are testing all pregnant people for COVID-19 who arrive to the hospital for labor—even people without any symptoms. Will I be tested when I arrive at Mass General?A: With guidance from infection control specialists and our colleagues in other states, Mass General, along with all our partner hospitals, is testing all pregnant people arriving at Labor and Delivery for COVID-19 even those patients without any symptoms. Some patients who have no symptoms may be identified as COVID positive, and this information will allow us to take the best care of all the mothers and babies on the unit.
Q: I have heard that hospitals are restricting visitors. Will I be allowed to bring a support person with me for labor and my postpartum stay?
A: Despite the many challenges posed by COVID-19, we are committed to helping pregnant people have the best labor and delivery experience possible which includes having a birth partner in the room during labor. Given the evolving pandemic, and in line with current hospital policy and needs to protect the health of our staff, the individuals who come to support you must be free from symptoms of coronavirus infection and wear a face covering during the entire visit. You can find the latest information on the Obstetrical Visitor Policy page of our website.
Q: If I develop COVID-19, will I still be able to breastfeed?A: Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most infants. Although much is unknown about COVID-19, all data to date has not identified coronavirus transmission through the breast milk. A mother with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 should take all precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant, including washing her hands before touching the infant and wearing a face mask, if possible, while feeding at the breast. If expressing breast milk with a manual or electric breast pump, the mother should wash her hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use. If possible, the infant should be fed the expressed breast milk by a healthy caregiver.
Still have questions?
Additional References and Resources
- Mass General Obstetrics Program: 617-724-2229
- Mass General Brigham COVID-19 FAQs
This content was prepared by Ilona Goldfarb, MD, for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Date originally published: 3/20/2020
Most recently updated: 8/1/2021
OB/GYN at Mass General
The Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Mass General consistently ranks among the best women's health care providers in the country, offering innovative treatments from leading experts in obstetrics, gynecology, infertility, cancer and urogynecology. Learn more about our department.