COVID-19 information for pregnant women and new mums
If you are pregnant or have recently had a baby you may have some concerns about how coronavirus (COVID-19) could affect you, your pregnancy care or your baby. Watch this short video featuring Dr Boon Lim, Medical Director of Women Youth & Children, and Michelle Thinius, Assistant Director of Midwifery, from the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children that shares how we're supporting families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please note the video was filmed prior to the current COVID-19 restrictions coming into effect. Patients and staff are now required to wear the appropriate mask at health facilities.
Should I have the COVID-19 vaccination?
Yes, the COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning a pregnancy. Pregnant women who become infected with COVID-19 have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and pregnancy complications like preterm birth. COVID-19 vaccination not only reduces the risk for pregnant women of severe illness but also provides indirect protection to babies by transferring antibodies through the placenta (during pregnancy) or through breastmilk (during breastfeeding).
If you are not yet vaccinated or are eligible for a booster, you can make a booking for your free COVID-19 vaccine now.
Further guidance around new or expecting mothers receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is available on the ACT COVID-19 website.
Reducing the risk of you and your baby getting COVID-19
Pregnant women have a higher risk of complications, including severe illness, if they catch COVID-19. Their baby may also have a higher risk of being born prematurely. If you are pregnant or have a newborn, it is important to get vaccinated and practise COVID-safe behaviours. Those living with you should follow the same advice. You should also limit the number of visitors in your home, and ask family or friends not come over if they are feeling unwell.
If you take your child out in an infant carrier, you can place a light muslin wrap over the carrier while it's within your view. Make sure the blanket doesn't touch the baby. If you need to feed you baby while you are out, try to find a seat outside or a private space where there is as few people as is possible. Wipe down the carrier or stroller when you get home.
Have you been exposed to COVID-19?
You can get advice on what to do if you have come in contact with someone who has tested positive on the ACT COVID-19 website.
What to do if you receive a positive test result?
If you test positive for COVID-19 you will need to isolate at home. Many pregnant women have had the virus experience very mild or no symptoms. Make sure you follow health advice, drink plenty of fluids, rest and monitor yourself for symptoms. Remember if you have a temperature during your pregnancy you should only take paracetamol.
If you have an appointment to see your maternity care provider while you are isolating, please let them know about your COVID-19 result. This information is important to help plan your care.
You may be worried about the reports about passing COVID-19 on to your baby, but the risk is low – just two in 100 pregnancies. Babies who have been infected with COVID-19 in the womb or during childbirth have mainly been well and have not needed extra care. More information can be found on the Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website.
Being in isolation can be a very stressful and worrying time for some people and whether you are a first-time mum or already a parent, not having your usual support network around you can make it hard. Keep in touch with your family and friends through phone calls and video and stay connected with groups that can help support you during this time.
If you are COVID-19 positive and have any pregnancy or gynaecological issues, call your maternity care provider if you experience any of the following symptoms or have have any other concerns about your pregnancy:
constant clear watery vaginal discharge
contractions any time before 37 weeks
sudden swelling of your face and hands.
No matter what your COVID-19 status, if you think your baby's movements have decreased or the pattern has significantly changed or you have other concerns about your pregnancy – contact the birth suite midwife or your continuity midwife at the hospital you are booked into for advice.
Centenary Hospital for Women and Children Birthing Suite: (02) 5124 7444
North Canberra Hospital Birth Suite: (02) 6201 6034
If you begin to feel unwell while in isolation (have a fever, cough or a respiratory illness) seek medical attention. Call your GP, midwife or the ACT COVID-19 Care@Home program.
For life threatening symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain call for an ambulance by dialling 000. Let them know you are pregnant and it is an emergency.
What will happen to antenatal visits and tests?
If you are self-isolating, waiting for a test result or are diagnosed with COVID-19, please contact your midwife, antenatal clinic or birth suite. Antenatal visits, ultrasounds and tests may be postponed while you are in isolation or care may be provided via telehealth.
Planning for your baby’s birth during COVID-19
If you are in labour or have a booked caesarean birth, please call the birthing suite or your continuity midwife before you arrive at the hospital. We will ask you some questions to ensure everyone’s safety. It’s important to bring your maternity record booklet with you. You should familiarise yourself with the current visitor restrictions in the lead up to your due date.
How will pregnancy care be provided if you have COVID-19 in hospital
If you are COVID-19 positive or have any respiratory symptoms please call the birthing suite or your continuity midwife before you arrive at the hospital. After being invited to attend the hospital for your pregnancy concern, please phone the COVID Coordinator on 6142 6301 on arrival to the main entrance doors. To keep you, other women and staff safe, the team will organise where you will be admitted, a member will meet you at the entrance and provide you with the appropriate PPE.
Your support person must not be under a public health directive. If there is any doubt, please contact your health provider to discuss. It is important to know if your support person is in home isolation due to a positive COVID-19 test or is a close contact without any symptoms, they will not be allowed to enter the hospital and you will need to nominate another support person. This is to protect you, your baby and all the other patients in the hospital.
If you have COVID-19, we will not turn you away, we are here to support you as usual. Staff have been trained to care for women with COVID-19. You will be looked after by health care workers who will wear personal protective equipment. You will be asked to wear a mask throughout your admission. Your support person will be asked to wear personal protective equipment as well.
Will having COVID-19 affect contact with my baby after I give birth?
A doctor or midwife will come and talk to you about options for caring for your baby after you give birth. The decision will depend on:
how well or unwell you are
how well or unwell your baby is after birth
increasing evidence about how mothers and babies are affected by COVID-19.
If you and your baby are well, you can stay with your baby in the same room with precautions such as wearing a face mask when holding your baby. If you or your baby are unwell, we will provide whatever medical care or support needed. This may mean your baby may be cared for by your support person. If you baby is unwell they may need be cared for by the neonatal team.
If you are COVID-19 positive when you go home, the risk of transmission of COVID-19 is via secretions from your nose and mouth. You should take special precautions when feeding your baby, expressing breastmilk, practising skin to skin contact, or when you are closer than 1.5 metres from your baby. It is recommended you wear a mask when caring for your baby. Try to limit the time close to your baby. If your support person is negative, encourage them to change your baby’s nappy and bath them while you watch and talk to your baby. They should wash any equipment you are using and prepare feeds if needed.
Can you still breastfeed if you have COVID-19?
If you plan to breastfeed or give breastmilk to your baby, and have been diagnosed with COVID-19, deemed a close contact, or have recovered from the virus, we advise you to continue to breastfeed unless you are feeling too unwell. Maternal antibodies, produced by your body when you are exposed to COVID-19, are actually beneficial to babies and are passed on to your child via breastmilk. According to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, there is also evidence of maternal antibodies being passed onto baby via breastmilk following a full course of a COVID-19 vaccination.
If you are too ill to breastfeed in hospital, staff will help you to express milk and care for your baby. Consider whether someone who is well can feed the expressed breast milk to your baby by a bottle, cup or spoon, following appropriate infection prevention methods. You can discuss feeding options with your health professional.
Support when you go home with your baby
During the first seven days, women living in the ACT, Queanbeyan or Jerrabomberra are provided follow-up care after their birth. A midwife will come to your home and offer individualised postnatal care, feeding and parenting support. Our service is available seven days a week from 8:30am to 5pm. Staff have been trained to provide postnatal care for all women whether COVID-19 negative or positive. Due to COVID-19, many of our services have been updated and now include telehealth and phone visits. You may receive between one and three home visits from our service depending on your needs.
If you live outside of the ACT, Queanbeyan or Jerrabomberra, we encourage you to connect with your local health service or GP. We also recommend planning your support at home before your baby is due. This may include:
booking leave for your partner or support person
having an approved baby car seat fitted in your family car
joining a support group or developing your own
cooking meals and storing them in the freezer for when you come home from hospital.
Our Maternal and Child Health (MACH) Clinic nurses are also here to support you with ongoing information and advice to help you get the best start to parenthood. The MACH team will contact you to arrange the first appointment.
If you would like to speak with a MACH nurse or midwife, the Early Pregnancy and Parenting Support phone line offers information and support for the following:
concerns with early pregnancy
infant growth and development and parenting
childhood nutrition and feeding
infant behaviours, sleep and settling
early childhood immunisation; including influenza from 6 months of age to 5 years
The support line is manned from 8:30am-5:00pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays) on (02) 5124 1775.
Staying in touch with your baby or child's doctor
Keeping your child's vaccines up to date is a key way to keep your child healthy. Ask how your health care provider is giving vaccines and doing regular checkups. They will work with you to answer your questions and make sure your child gets any needed vaccines and checkups. Some do well visits through telehealth while others might postpone an in-person visit.
Specialist and follow-up appointments. Newborns or children with complex medical conditions, may have specialist or follow-up appointments. Unless your family is in home-isolation, please attend these appointments, if you baby becomes unwell please contact them as they may want to schedule an in-person visit right away.
How do I look after my baby or child with COVID-19 at home?
The majority of children infected with COVID-19 only have mild symptoms. It is not uncommon for children to test positive for the virus but not show any symptoms, however they are still able to spread the virus.
When caring for your child at home, we recommend you:
• Encourage them to drink small amounts of fluid frequently, as they may not feel like drinking
• If you are breastfeeding, offer your baby a breastfeed regularly
• Offer your child food regularly
• Encourage rest
• Use paracetamol or ibuprofen only if you think your child is in pain or appears uncomfortable with fever. Do not give more than the recommend dosage and check with your medical professional if your child is taking other regular medication.
Call triple zero (000) and inform the emergency operater if your child is displaying any of the following symptoms or signs:
• Difficult or fast breathing
• Pale or mottled skin colour
• Excessive drowsiness or confusion
• Persistent fever higher than 38 degrees Celsius, which does not reduce after giving paracetamol or ibuprofen
• Chest pain
• Severe or worsening abdominal pain
• Frequent vomiting and or diarrhoea.