A number of health organizations have issued statements for pregnant individuals and families related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. 

 What we know to-date: 

  • There is currently limited information to guide pregnant individuals and their care providers about optimal care and effects of infection during pregnancy on the fetus.  Based on the latest evidence, transmission of the virus (SARS-CoV-2) from mother to fetus/infant via the placenta, breastmilk, or the birth process cannot be ruled out at this moment.
  • Evidence to-date suggests that pregnant individuals are not more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than the general population.
  • Pregnant individuals seem to have the same clinical signs and symptoms of the disease as those experienced by non-pregnant adults and include fever, cough, shortness of breath, body aches, fatigue and sore throat. Should you experience any of these symptoms, please contact your health care provider.
  • It is still too early to know the potential impact of COVID-19 in early pregnancy.  However, there is some evidence that prolonged high fever, particularly in the first trimester, carries a small increased risk for some birth defects. 
  • Small studies from China suggest that while pregnant individuals don’t seem to have bad outcomes themselves, their newborns may be born too early or too small and have longer hospital stays. 
  • Most children infected with COVID-19 have mild, moderate, or no symptoms at all. Few children have required hospitalization and they tend to recover well. Children younger than one year of age seem to experience more severe symptoms than children in older age groups.

It is clear that certain infections can cause problems for pregnant individuals, likely because of the body’s adaptations to pregnancy. This happened with the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic and other viral outbreaks such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Fever and other illness symptoms may lead to being born too early or too small.   

It is extremely important to follow your care provider’s guidelines for prenatal care appointments, follow social distancing or self-isolation guidelines as prescribed and keep informed of public health directives in your region. All pregnant individuals regardless of gestational age should not travel outside of Canada.

Covid-19 and Labour/Birth/Newborn Care

Recommendations for pregnant individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19 and have symptoms (positive or unknown test result):

  • The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada recommends making decisions about separating mother and baby, breastfeeding, and delaying umbilical cord clamping on a case-by-case basis, considering the patient’s and family’s values, the latest evidence, and the availability of resources.
  • They do not routinely recommend separating mother and baby, but a family may prefer to do so until the mother’s symptoms stop.
  • They encourage and support breastfeeding. However, mothers with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 should wear a facemask while breastfeeding, and wash their hands before touching the baby, the breast pumps, or the bottles. The same recommendations apply for skin-to-skin contact or when handling the baby.
  • There is very little evidence at this moment on whether specific protection for COVID-19 can be passed on to the baby through breastfeeding.
  • Delayed umbilical cord clamping is still routinely recommended unless it is contraindicated for other reasons.

Please note that these recommendations might change as more evidence becomes available.

Key resources include:

Government of Canada – Coronavirus disease – Be Prepared   

Association of Ontario Midwives COVID-19 resources

Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada’s statement from the Infectious Disease Committee

The Mothers Program