Pregnancy, childbirth and caring for a newborn during COVID-19
Advice on pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and having visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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COVID-19 is a new disease and we’re still learning how it affects people who are pregnant. There isn’t enough evidence at this time to confirm that COVID-19 can spread to a fetus during pregnancy. Current evidence shows that people who are pregnant:
- don’t have a higher chance of getting COVID-19
- don’t become more seriously ill than non-pregnant people if they get it
It’s important for people who are pregnant to take precautions to help protect themselves from becoming ill. This includes:
- staying at home as much as possible
- keeping a physical distance of at least 2 metres from others
- practising proper hand hygiene and respiratory (coughing and sneezing) etiquette
- wearing a non-medical mask or face covering when it’s not possible to consistently maintain a 2-metre physical distance from others, particularly in crowded public settings
People who are pregnant should consider additional measures such as:
- avoiding having visitors to your home, unless for medical purposes
- avoiding closed spaces, crowded places and peak-hours
- avoiding travel by public transit
You should take extra precautions if you’re pregnant and at high risk of complications from COVID-19. This includes those who have a chronic medical condition or weakened immune system. You should:
- ask for support from family, a neighbour, a friend or your community to help with essential errands like picking up prescriptions or buying groceries
- talk with your health care provider about how to protect yourself and ensure access to proper support and medical supplies
If it’s not possible to get medical supplies, contact your public health authority or a community organization for guidance and resources.
Depending on the spread of COVID-19 within your community, your routine prenatal visits may be different. Some health care providers may not allow a second person to go into appointments with you. Some of your visits may be over phone call or video chat. Talk to your health care provider to find out what adjustments to your medical care you can expect during this time.
There’s currently not enough evidence to indicate that a person can pass COVID-19 to their child during childbirth.
If you plan to give birth in a hospital or birth centre, talk to your health care provider about your birth plan. Learn how it may need to change due to COVID-19 and what their policies are on support and visitors.
If you plan to give birth at home, talk to your midwife to learn if you can still choose homebirths in your province or territory. Learn what precautions they’ll take to make sure your home environment is safe.
If you have COVID-19, talk to your health care provider about how this may affect childbirth. They may consult other specialists for you or your baby.
After childbirth, babies shouldn’t leave home unless medically necessary. Newborns can get COVID-19 from other people, so it’s important to follow measures to prevent the spread of infection.
Giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic can be stressful. It’s normal to feel sad, scared or confused. Talk to your health care provider about how COVID-19 may change your birth and after-birth plans.
The virus that causes COVID-19 hasn’t been found in breast milk. Breastfeeding is recommended when possible, as it:
- has many health benefits and offers the most protection against infection and illness throughout infancy and childhood
- provides important nutrition for your baby
If you have or think you have COVID-19, you can still hold your baby skin-to-skin and stay in the same room if preferred, especially during the establishment of breastfeeding and for bonding.
Those who have or think they have COVID-19, should take all possible precautions to avoid spreading COVID-19 to their baby when feeding.
- Wash your hands often, especially before and after touching your baby and other children.
- Practise proper respiratory (coughing and sneezing) etiquette.
- Wear a medical mask, or if unavailable, a non-medical mask or face covering, when you’re less than 2 metres away from your baby, including during feeding times.
- Don’t share bottles or breast pumps.
- Use a clean towel or blanket under your baby each time you’re feeding.
- Sterilize breast pump equipment carefully before and after each use by:
- washing the pump or containers with soap and warm water
- rinsing the equipment with hot water for 10 to 15 seconds
- Ensure that the environment around you is clean and disinfected with approved hard-surface disinfectants.
If a mask affects your ability to communicate due to a disability, clear masks may be available to you. Contact your public health authority or a community organization for information.
If you’re too sick to breastfeed or provide routine baby care, ask a healthy adult to feed and care for your baby. Whoever’s helping you should take precautions in your home if you’re sick. This includes wearing a medical mask, or if unavailable, a non-medical mask or face covering, and washing their hands frequently when caring for the baby.
After your baby is born, friends, family, religious leaders or other community supports may want to visit and meet your baby. However, you should only allow visitors for medical purposes. This can be difficult, but it’s important to keep your family safe.
Celebrate the birth of your new baby by having virtual visits and using online tools as much as possible. Eventually, visitors will be able to embrace you and your baby in person. Try to remember that this is temporary and physical distancing is the best way to protect you and your family from COVID-19.
Parenting during COVID-19 can be challenging, and people who are pregnant and postpartum are at a higher risk of mental health issues.
Feelings of fear, anxiety and uncertainty associated with the COVID-19 pandemic may worsen your risk of mental health challenges. You may not have access to the support and resources you typically would.
Parents are encouraged to stay connected with family, friends, community supports and their health care provider during this difficult time. Discuss any mental health challenges with your health care provider.
Mental health support services and resources are available, such as the Wellness Together Canada portal for mental wellness and substance use issues.
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