Suspected or confirmed COVID-19 after giving birth

May 7, 2020

COVID-19 Guidance: Suspected or confirmed COVID-19 after giving birth

Risk to my baby

There is insufficient evidence to suggest that women with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 can pass on the virus to their babies. There has been some evidence of babies born to mothers with COVID-19, but in these few cases the babies are all well and seem to recover well from the virus. However, in most new case studies, babies born to symptomatic mothers were all well and tested negative for the virus. Uncertainty can always be unsettling, and the evidence is rapidly evolving, thus we recommend that you discuss any of your concerns with your healthcare team as they will be able to provide you with individualised advice and support.

Skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding

After delivery, the healthcare team will examine you and your baby, after which you will be able to head home together. At this point if you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 it will be your choice whether you wish to have skin-to-skin contact with you baby. On one hand, some countries are advising to isolate from your baby for 14 days; however, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists highlight that this time spent away from your baby can hinder feeding and bonding. Every case is different, which is why it is important to have a conversation with your healthcare team regarding your situation.

There is insufficient evidence to suggest that the virus can be passed on in breastmilk. Furthermore, the well-documented benefits of breastfeeding, including the building of the baby’s immune system, outweighs the risk of the virus, with the evidence that we currently have. The main risk of transmission to your baby would be the close contact. If are worried about this, there are a few precautions you can take in order to reduce the risk:

  • Wash your hands before touching the baby or anything in the baby’s environment (such as the breast pump),
  • Try to avoid coughing and sneezing while the baby is feeding,
  • Some women have been wearing masking while breastfeeding, if available,
  • ensure that you follow the recommendations for pump cleaning as well as sterilisation guidelines regardless if you are using formula or expelled milk (Sterilisation guidelines: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/sterilising-bottles/)
  • Consider asking an asymptomatic household member to feed the baby with the breastmilk you have pumped.

We understand that caring for your child, especially if you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 can be incredibly stressful. There has been no evidence to suggest that women who have recently had a baby to be at an increased risk of contracting the virus or being seriously unwell from it. Ensure that you take care of yourself and stay well hydrated and nourished. As every case is different, it would be beneficial to have a conversation about caring for your child if you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Your healthcare team will be happy to answer any of your questions and reassure you wherever possible.

References:

https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/guidelines/coronavirus-pregnancy/covid-19-virus-infection-and-pregnancy/#recently

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/sterilising-bottles/

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30365-2/fulltext

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2237352-coronavirus-what-we-know-so-far-about-risks-to-pregnancy-and-babies/