pregnant woman using the computer
pregnant woman using the computer
pregnant woman using the computer

Coronavirus and Pregnancy: What You Should Know

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Updated on December 19, 2022

Pregnancy can be a time of joyous anticipation and excitement for women and their families. But the coronavirus pandemic raises concerns. Are you and your baby at risk?

By following doctors’ advice and taking some extra precautions, you can enjoy a healthy, happy pregnancy while protecting yourself and your unborn child from the effects of COVID-19.

Jeanne Sheffield, M.D., an expert in maternal-fetal medicine at Johns Hopkins, explains what pregnant women should know about the impact of the coronavirus and COVID-19 on pregnancy. She provides perspective on current research data concerning pregnant women who have had COVID-19, and offers suggestions on what you can do to stay safer.

Avoiding the Coronavirus During Pregnancy

Avoiding infection with the coronavirus is a top priority for pregnant women. Sheffield explains why: “Pregnant women can experience changes to their immune systems that can make them more vulnerable to respiratory viruses,” she says. “These changes mean that expectant mothers should be proactive when it comes to safety measures.

“If you’re pregnant, you should take precautions to protect yourself from getting COVID-19. Do everything you can, including physical distancing, wearing a mask, hand-washing and staying in close communication with your provider.”

She says many practitioners are scheduling less frequent appointments to help pregnant patients limit trips to the doctor’s office. Other obstetricians are ramping up telemedicine processes so they can continue to monitor pregnant patients without an in-person visit. Ask your obstetrician about these options.

Should pregnant women get a coronavirus test? If you are having COVID-19 symptoms or think you have been exposed to an infected person, call your doctor and follow his or her advice. Adhere to precautions carefully: Stay at least 6 feet from others, wear a mask, and avoid large gatherings and indoor socializing outside of your household.

Sheffield says, “Ideally, all pregnant women should be screened for COVID-19 when they are admitted to deliver their babies, but especially mothers with cough, fever or any respiratory symptoms.”

Now that COVID-19 vaccines are authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, vaccination rates have increased markedly in pregnant women. This is the best method to decrease maternal and fetal complications from COVID-19 infection. Here’s more about the COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy.

Pregnancy and COVID-19: Elsa’s Story

Elsa with baby in hospital bed with husband Victor at their side.

Elsa Lisseth Reyes-Amaya was pregnant when she was hospitalized for a serious case of COVID-19. Multiple departments across Johns Hopkins Medicine worked together to treat her and monitor her pregnancy. Four months later, Elsa safely delivered her daughter, Sofia.

Read the articleEn español

COVID-19’s Impact on Pregnant Women

Women who have COVID-19 symptoms while pregnant should notify their doctors immediately. If you are tested for the coronavirus and it turns out you have it, do not panic.

“We can provide treatment for COVID-19 in pregnancy,” Sheffield says. “Several of the medications currently in use are also being used for our pregnant women, and studies have shown they can provide some benefit.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine have worked with national and international leaders on recommendations for doctors working with pregnant women who might have COVID-19 or who have been diagnosed with the illness. These recommendations are based on data from the first two years of the coronavirus pandemic, and are being updated as more is learned about the virus.

We know that pregnant patients with COVID-19 are at an increased risk for severe illness compared with nonpregnant patients. Pregnant patients are at threefold increased risk for intensive care unit admission and ventilator requirements. They are also at a 70% increased risk of death compared with non-pregnant patients. Pregnant patients with other medical issues and patients age 35 or older have even higher risks of adverse maternal and pregnancy outcomes. Pregnant patients with moderate to severe disease have a higher rate of cesarean delivery, hypertensive disorders and preterm birth.

“There is still limited information about whether COVID-19 in particular is associated with pregnancy loss, miscarriage or stillbirth,” she says. “But we do know that high fevers in pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, can raise the risk of birth defects. That is why we encourage our patients to protect themselves from any illness that causes fever, including the flu.”

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Scientist carefully insets a pipette into a test tube.

What you need to know from Johns Hopkins Medicine.