Covid-19 virus infection and pregnancy

Latest update

Maternity Covid-19 update - April 2021

We are pleased to advise that from Monday 12 April we will be supporting the Birth Partner in accompanying the pregnant woman on her journey. Your named partner will be able to accompany you throughout - this includes all scans, antenatal appointments and birth experiences. Before and after the birth, if you are admitted to our antenatal or postnatal wards your named birth partner is able to join you on the ward between 10am-6pm.

Please can we politely ask that, when visiting, you bring your own food and beverages? However, there is no facility on the ward for heating food.

We will be asking all birth partners screening questions on entering our hospital and unless you have a medical exemption (in which case, please bring your certificate) you will have to wear a face covering at all times. There are posters in the ward about noise and we ask that mobile phone use and entering and leaving the ward is kept to a minimum.

There are some gudance leaflets below for you to download and save or print.

Birth Partner guidance 1
Birth Partner guidance 2
Birth Partner guidance 3

Nicky Wilkins, Consultant Midwife, Deputy Director of Midwifery
Paula Galea, Consultant Obstetrician and Clinical Lead for Maternity Services
Nikki Jackson, Divisional Director for Planned Care


Vaccination update for pregnant women

Pregnant women are eligible for Covid-19 vaccine in line with Government recommendations. Please read the leaflet below from the NWL LMS in relation to vaccine. Further information on Covid-19 vaccination is available in other languages here and accessible formats including British Sign Language here.

Vaccination during pregnancy - leaflet 38kb

To book your Covid-19 vaccination please visit the National Booking System.

Please discuss any concerns you have with your Midwife or Obstetrician at your appointments.

Lateral Flow Testing for patients and visitors within the Maternity Unit

Women and their support partners will be able to order tests online to self-administer at home and report results via the national portal. Tests are voluntary, but women and their support people are encouraged to test to help keep the hospital safe for themselves, other women, their families and our staff. The Government has announced that twice-weekly rapid testing (Lateral Flow Testing) is available to everybody. Pregnant women and their support people are advised to take up this opportunity and undertake testing twice weekly during pregnancy because this will help make sure any Covid-19 infection is picked up early and managed. Lateral flow testing kits are available to everybody and can be ordered online here. Testing twice a week is recommended and the test only takes a minute or two to perform then you must wait 30mins for the result.
If you are taking a lateral flow test:
  • If you and your support person both have negative results - please attend your appointment as normal
  • If you have a positive result - please contact your maternity provider via telephone as soon as possible before your appointment, so we can plan your care following local policy
  • If you have a negative result and your support person has a positive result - please attend your appointment alone. Your support person must stay home and follow Government guidance.
Lateral flow testing for pregnant women and support people - your questions answered 132kb

Frequently asked questions

What effect does coronavirus have on pregnant women?

Pregnant women do not appear to be more susceptible to the consequences of coronavirus than the general population. As this is a new virus, how it may affect you is not yet clear. It is expected the large majority of pregnant women will experience only mild or moderate cold/flu like symptoms.

More severe symptoms such as pneumonia appear to be more common in older people, those with weakened immune systems or long-term conditions. There are no reported deaths of pregnant women from coronavirus at the moment.

If you are pregnant you are more vulnerable to getting infections than a woman who is not pregnant. If you have an underlying heart or lung condition, such as asthma, you may be more unwell if you have coronavirus.

What effect will coronavirus have on my baby if I am diagnosed with the infection?

As this is a very new virus we are just beginning to learn about it. There is no evidence to suggest an increased risk of miscarriage. With regard to vertical transmission (transmission from mother to baby)  the evidence now suggest that transmission is probable, although there has only been a single case reported. The significance to the neonate is not yet known and we will continue to assess and monitor the situation for women and babies.

Some babies born to women with symptoms of coronavirus in China have been born prematurely. It is unclear whether coronavirus caused this or the doctors made the decision for the baby to be born early because the woman was unwell. As we learn about the risk of pre-term birth and coronavirus infection, we will update this information.

What can I do to reduce my risk of catching coronavirus?

The most important thing to do is to wash your hands regularly and effectively as soon as you come from public places to your home or workplace. There is useful advice on the NHS website on the best way to reduce any infection risk, not just for coronavirus, but for other things like colds and flu.

What is the travel advice if I am pregnant?

If you are in the UK, you should follow the advice given by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which is being regularly updated in line with the evolving situation.

All individuals, including pregnant women, should ensure they have adequate insurance arrangements prior to travel. You should also check that your travel insurance will provide cover for birth and care of your newborn baby if you give birth while abroad.

What should I do if I think I may have coronavirus or been exposed to it?

If you are pregnant and:

  • you think you might have coronavirus
  • you've been in close contact with someone with coronavirus

you should phone NHS 111 or use the NHS 111 online tool for further advice, and say you are pregnant.

You should also contact the maternity unit looking after your pregnancy to inform them of the advice you have been given by the NHS 111 service.

How will I be tested for coronavirus?

The process for diagnosing coronavirus infection is changing rapidly. At the current time, if you need a test for coronavirus, you will be advised to self-isolate and diagnostic swabs will be arranged. You may need to attend a hospital, or be tested at home.

You will be tested in the same way as anyone being tested, regardless of the fact that you are pregnant. Currently, the test involves swabs being taken from your mouth and nose. You may also be asked to cough up sputum, a mixture of saliva and mucous.

What should I do if I test positive for coronavirus?

If you test positive for coronavirus, you should contact your midwife or antenatal team to make them aware of your diagnosis. If you have no symptoms, or mild symptoms, you will be advised to recover at home. If you have more severe symptoms, you might be treated in a hospital setting.

Why would I be asked to self-isolate?

You may be advised to self-isolate because:

  • You have come into contact with someone who has coronavirus
  • You have visited a particular area or country with a high-risk of coronavirus
  • You have symptoms suggestive of coronavirus and are waiting to be tested, or for your results
  • You have tested positive for coronavirus and you’ve been advised to recover at home

What should I do if I’m asked to self-isolate?

Pregnant women who have been advised to self-isolate should stay indoors and avoid contact with others for 14 days.

The NHS guidance on self-isolation currently recommends people should:

  • Not go to school, work, NHS settings or public areas
  • Not use public transport
  • Stay at home and not allow visitors
  • Ventilate the rooms where they are by opening a window
  • Separate themselves from other members of their household as far as possible, using their own towels, crockery and utensils and eating at different times
  • Use friends, family or delivery services to run errands, but advise them to leave items outside.

You may wish to consider online fitness routines to keep active, such as pregnancy yoga or pilates.

Can I still attend my antenatal appointments if I am in self-isolation?

You should contact your midwife or antenatal clinic to inform them that you are currently in self-isolation for possible/confirmed coronavirus and request advice on attending routine antenatal appointments.

It is likely that routine antenatal appointments will be delayed until isolation ends. If your midwife or doctor advises that your appointment cannot wait, the necessary arrangements will be made for you to be seen. For example, you may be asked to attend at a different time, or in a different clinic, to protect other patients.

How will my care be managed after I have recovered from coronavirus?

As a precautionary approach, an ultrasound scan will be arranged 14 days after your recovery, to check that your baby is well. This 14 day period may be reduced as more information on how infected people are in recovery becomes available.

If you have recovered from coronavirus and tested negative for the virus before you go into labour, where and how you give birth will not be affected by your previous illness.

What do I do if I feel unwell or I’m worried about my baby during self-isolation?

Pregnant women are advised not to attend maternity triage units or A&E unless in need of urgent pregnancy or medical care.

If you have concerns about the wellbeing of yourself or your unborn baby during your self-isolation period, contact your midwife, or out-of-hours, your maternity team. They will provide further advice, including whether you need to attend hospital.

If attendance at the maternity unit or hospital is advised, pregnant women are requested to travel by private transport, or arrange hospital transport, and alert the maternity triage reception once on the premises, prior to entering the hospital.

Will being in self-isolation for suspected or confirmed coronavirus affect where I give birth?

As a precautionary approach, pregnant women with suspected or confirmed coronavirus when they go into labour, are being advised to attend an obstetric unit for birth, where the baby can be monitored using continuous electronic fetal monitoring, and your oxygen levels can be monitored hourly.

The continuous fetal monitoring is to check how your baby is coping with labour. As continuous fetal monitoring can only take place in an obstetric unit, where doctors and midwives are present, it is not currently recommended that you give birth at home or in a midwife led unit, where only midwives would be present.

We will keep this advice continually updated as new evidence emerges.

Will being in self-isolation for suspected or confirmed coronavirus affect how I give birth?

There is currently no evidence to suggest you cannot give birth vaginally or that you would be safer having a caesarean birth if you have suspected or confirmed coronavirus, so your birth plan should be followed as closely as possible based on your wishes.

However, if your respiratory condition (breathing) suggested that urgent delivery would be needed, a caesarean birth may be recommended.

There is no evidence that women with suspected or confirmed coronavirus cannot have an epidural or a spinal block. However, the use of Entonox (gas and air) may increase aerosolisation and spread of the virus, so your maternity team will discuss all the options with you in early labour to ensure you are aware of the pain relief options available to you.

What happens if I go into labour during my self-isolation period or need to attend the maternity unit if I am Covid positive?

If you go into labour, you should call your maternity unit for advice, and inform them that you have suspected or confirmed coronavirus infection.

If you have mild symptoms, you will be encouraged to remain at home (self-isolating), if it is considered safe for you and your baby. In early labour, a plan will be discussed with you which may include staying at home if safe to do so or coming into the maternity unit. You will be given advice and if you need to be assessed in the Maternity unit or in the Accident and Emergency Department, we will make arrangements with you where you need to attend.

Your maternity team want to ensure you and your baby receive safe, quality care, respecting your birth plan as closely as possible and monitoring the health of you and your baby.

When you and your maternity team decide you need to attend the maternity unit or emergency department, you will be given a plan depending on your clinical situation

  • You will be advised to attend hospital via private transport where possible, or call 111/999 for advice, if necessary, if you use any other form of transport, please wear a face covering if possible and try to maintain social distance
  • When you contact us in the maternity unit, we will advise you whether to come to the main entrance or use the alternative entrance into maternity or to go to accident and emergency department
  • You will be provided with a surgical face mask, which will need to stay on until you are isolated in a suitable room
  • Depending on the individual circumstances regarding your Covid status we will discuss the arrangements for you and your named birth person regarding supporting you in the maternity unit
  • If you are Covid positive and if following the assessment by the maternity team your birth person is able to remain, then your birth support person will need to remain in the room with you during your labour/treatment. We recommend that they bring some food and refreshments/change of clothes as we ask your support person not to move around the unit. Your birth support person will need to wear PPE whilst staff are with you providing care.
  • Visiting in our maternity unit is for the named birth partner only, currently 10.00-18.00. For Covid positive women the arrangements for the named birth partner to visit will be agreed by the team depending on you and your birth persons individual situation.

Could I pass coronavirus to my baby?

As this is a new virus, there is limited evidence about managing women with coronavirus infection in women who have just given birth; however, there are no reports of women diagnosed with coronavirus during the third trimester of pregnancy having passed the virus to their babies while in the womb.

Will my baby be tested for coronavirus?

Yes, if you have suspected or confirmed coronavirus at the time your baby is born, your baby will be tested for coronavirus.

Will I be able to stay with my baby/give skin-to-skin if I have suspected or confirmed coronavirus?

Yes, if that is your choice. Provided your baby is well and doesn’t require care in the neonatal unit, you will be kept together after you have given birth.

There are some reports from China which suggest women with confirmed coronavirus have been advised to separate from their baby for 14 days. However, this may have potential negative effects on feeding and bonding.

A discussion about the risks and benefits should take place between you and your family and the doctors caring for your baby (neonatologists) to individualise care for your baby.

This guidance may change as knowledge evolves.

Will I be able to breastfeed my baby?

Yes. At the moment there is no evidence that the virus can be carried in breastmilk, so it’s felt that the well-recognised benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of coronavirus through breastmilk.

The main risk of breastfeeding is close contact between you and your baby, as you may share infective airborne droplets, leading to infection of the baby after birth.

A discussion about the risks and benefits of breastfeeding should take place between you and your family and your maternity team.

This guidance may change as knowledge evolves.

If you choose to breastfeed your baby, the following precautions are recommended:

  • Wash your hands before touching your baby, breast pump or bottles
  • Wear a face-mask for feeding at the breast
  • Follow recommendations for pump cleaning after each use
  • Consider asking someone who is well to feed expressed breast milk to your baby.

If you choose to feed your baby with formula or expressed milk, it is recommend that you follow strict adherence to NHS sterilisation guidelines. If you are expressing breast milk in hospital, a dedicated breast pump should be used.