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Pregnancy and birth during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way people live their lives and for women who are pregnant, it can mean a whole new level of worry.
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At BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre we hear questions like, "Could the virus harm my baby?" "Could it harm me?" 

"Can my partner or doula even be there for the birth?" 

"That last question is the number one question I get in my office," says BC Women's Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Chelsea Elwood. "We're very patient and family centred. We support having one support person in the labour room, plus a doula in their care team, because we think that's a hugely important part of the birth process."

COVID-19 is a viral disease, but so far, research shows pregnant women are not more susceptible than the rest of the public.

"Pregnant women are not shown to be more infected with the virus," says Elwood. "They seem to be actually, potentially, less infected with the virus or the same as the general population."

With other viruses like influenza, pregnant women can get sicker than non-pregnant women so our teams are watching closely for this with COVID-19, but so far no studies have confirmed this.

"The vast majority of pregnant women experience very mild disease," says Elwood. "There will be a portion, like any part of the population, where they have more severe disease, but for the most part, it's actually quite mild."

Pregnant women in their first or second trimester and have flu or COVID-19 symptoms, are encouraged to get tested for COVID-19. Women in their third trimester should be tested for the virus. Public COVID-19 testing sites can be found here.

If you are pregnant and waiting for COVID-19 test results, seek urgent care if you experience one of the following changes in your health:   

  • If it becomes harder to breathe
  • If you can't drink anything 
  • If you feel very unwell
  • If you show signs of going into labour

If you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19, you and your support person will be in isolation and care will be based on your symptoms. Anticipate continuous electronic fetal monitoring during labour to assess your baby's well-being. Our aim will be to keep you and baby together, if at all possible, after birth. Skin-to-skin contact, delayed cord clamping and breastfeeding are considered safe at this time. If you need to go to the operating room, further measures may be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Your baby will be tested for COVID-19, but the chances of the virus transmitting from mother to baby are slim.

"Right now, we have no evidence that the virus is vertically transmitted to the baby," says Elwood. "This virus is similar to other respiratory viruses, which do not transmit to the fetus."

Patients who come to the hospital will find the entrances to BC Women's are limited to facilitate active screening. Women in labour can enter through Entrance 97, listed on this campus map

People will be met by a greeter at the entrance, who will remind them to wash their hands and wear a mask if they have any possible COVID-19 symptoms. The greeter will also advise people about the current visitor restrictions at BC Women's, which include no child visitors for labour and delivery patients. There will be extra precautionary measures visible, for instance, health-care workers are often wearing more personal protective equipment. Physical distancing measures are also in effect.

To protect yourself and your baby while in hospital and after you go home, the most important thing you can do to prevent COVID-19 and other illnesses is to clean your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. If you feel sick, wear a mask, especially while breastfeeding. Stay home as much as possible and if you must go out in public, keep yourself and your baby two metres from others.

 "Those physical distancing measures that are in place, are actually quite beneficial for newborns," says Elwood. "Those are similar practices we recommended pre-COVID, including frequent hand-washing and not going to large gatherings with newborns."

For more information, please see the BC Women's COVID-19 web page.

Or find more information on the BCCDC website: http://www.bccdc.ca/Health-Professionals-Site/Documents/COVID19_AntenatalVisitsDuringPandemic.pdf.


BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre; pregnancy; birth; pregnancy; newborns
Women's Health
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