Based on what we know at this time, pregnant people might be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant people. Additionally, there may be an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth or emergency cesarean (C-section) delivery, for pregnant people with COVID-19.
What is COVID-19?
Coronavirus disease 2019 (also called COVID-19) is a respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China. A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. COVID-19 is not the same as the coronaviruses that usually happen among us and causes mild illness, like the common cold.
What is happening with COVID-19 in the United States?
All states in the United States are reporting cases of COVID-19, and all states are reporting community spread of the disease. Community spread of COVID-19 is when people in a community become infected with the virus but don’t know how or where they were infected.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading very easily and sustainably between people. Sustainable means it goes from person to person without stopping. Information suggests that this virus is spreading more rapidly than the flu.
Risks related to COVID-19
Everyone is at risk of getting COVID-19 if they are exposed to the virus. Some people are more likely than others to become severely ill, which means that they may require hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe, or they may even die.
Who is at a higher risk of infection?
The risk of getting COVID-19 for Americans increases for those who:
- Live in places where there is ongoing community spread.
- Have close contact with people with COVID-19.
- Travel to places where community spread is happening.
- Are health care providers caring for patients with COVID-19.
Who is at a higher risk for severe illness?
Older adults and people of any age with the following conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19:
- Pregnant women, especially Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black pregnant women
- People with:
- Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Weakened immune system from an organ transplant
- Sickle cell disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Severe obesity
COVID-19 is a new disease. There is limited information about the impact of underlying medical conditions and whether they increase the risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Based on what we know at this time, people with the following conditions might be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the CDC:
- Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
- Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
- Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
- Liver disease
- Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
- Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
- Type 1 diabetes mellitus
People who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities, and minority groups, including Blacks and Hispanics, also may have an increased risk of getting severely sick from COVID-19, although more research is needed in this area.
If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, contact your health care provider.
COVID-19 and pregnancy
At this time, we have limited pregnancy-specific data about COVID-19. However, more studies are being published and we are learning more each day. Public health and medical groups are closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and providing regular updates.
If you are pregnant are you at a higher risk of getting COVID-19?
We still don’t know for certain:
- If all pregnant women have a higher chance of getting COVID-19 compared to the rest of the general population. However, a recent study found that nearly 15% of the 46 pregnant patients studied developed severe COVID-19 symptoms. These researchers concluded that pregnant women are at higher risk of getting the virus, particularly those who are overweight.
We do know:
- Recent studies suggest that pregnant women are more likely to get sicker from COVID-19 than non-pregnant women. Research has found that pregnant women with COVID-19 are at an increased risk of needing to be admitted to the hospital or the intensive care unit (ICU). Pregnant women with COVID-19 also may be more likely to need a ventilator to breathe compared with nonpregnant women.
- During pregnancy, your immune system isn’t as quick to respond to illnesses as it was before pregnancy. Having a lowered immune system may make you more likely to get sick with viruses like coronavirus.
- Illnesses like the flu and other viruses from the same family as COVID-19 have caused pregnant women to become very sick and some required hospitalization.
- It’s always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illnesses whenever possible.
Protect yourself from getting COVID-19:
- Stay at home as much as you can.
- Wash your hands often.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Do not skip your prenatal care appointments.
- Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines.
- Talk to your health care provider about how to stay healthy and take care of yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- If you don’t have a provider, contact your nearest community health center or health department.
- Call your provider if you have any questions related to your health.
- Seek care immediately if you have a medical emergency.
Can you give COVID-19 to your baby during pregnancy?
As of now, it’s not clear if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can transmit the virus to her baby. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, data had suggested that babies born to moms with the virus did not test positive for COVID-19. Recent data published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) and other journals suggest that transmission during pregnancy may be possible. Another small study in JAMA may suggest that mothers can transmit COVID-19 antibodies to their babies. Antibodies are cells in the body that fight off infection. Some findings suggest that people with COVID-19 antibodies are protected from getting the virus. As more studies get published, we will update this information.
After birth, a newborn can be infected after being in close contact with an infected person, including the baby’s mom or other caregivers. A small number of babies have tested positive for the virus shortly after birth. However, it is not clear if these babies got the virus before, during or after birth. Most newborns who have tested positive for COVID-19 had mild or no symptoms and have recovered fully. However, there are some reports of newborns who became very sick.
A small number of other problems, such as preterm birth, have been reported in babies born to mothers who tested positive for the virus late in their pregnancy. We don’t know if these problems were related to the virus.
What complications can I or my baby have if I get COVID-19 during pregnancy?
According to the CDC:
- Pregnant women can get sicker and require hospital care when they have certain other types of respiratory illnesses, like the flu and another coronavirus illness called severe acute respiratory syndrome (also called SARS).
- Pregnancy loss (miscarriage, stillbirth and other conditions that can cause a pregnancy to end before or during birth) have occurred with other coronaviruses, like SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. We don’t know if COVID-19 can cause pregnancy loss.
- It’s not certain if the risk of preterm labor and premature birth increases with COVID-19 like it does with the flu. Based on limited reports, there have been some premature births among moms with COVID-19. It is not clear if that is related to the mother being infected.
- Recent research suggests that pregnant women with COVID-19 may experience more severe symptoms of the virus after giving birth. These symptoms include severe lung and breathing issues, including pneumonia.
- If you have a high fever during your pregnancy, the risk for certain birth defects can increase.
- Based on other respiratory illnesses, like the flu and other coronaviruses, pregnant women may be at risk of getting severe illness and even death compared to the rest of the population.
- Because of the COVID-19 crisis, you may experience increased depression and anxiety while pregnant during the pandemic. Be sure to tell your provider about any thoughts or feelings that you may have.
What should you do if you have COVID-19 and you are in labor?
If you are in labor and you have confirmed COVID-19 or you think you have COVID-19, call the hospital or medical facility before you go. This way, the staff can take proper infection control precautions to protect your baby and other people from getting the infection.
It is likely that you will only be allowed one support person in the delivery room with you. Check what specific rules your hospital or birth center has put into place.
After you have your baby, your doctor may want to keep you in the hospital a bit longer to monitor your COVID-19 symptoms.
If you have COVID-19, how can a hospital protect your baby after birth?
If you have COVID-19 (suspected or confirmed) your baby will be tested for COVID-19, whether he has signs of infection or not.
CDC recommends that hospitals and other medical facilities consider having moms with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 stay at least 6 feet apart or in a separate room away from their new baby after giving birth until the risk of spreading the infection is over. Your providers can talk to you about the risks and benefits of this decision. Providers, infection control specialists and public health experts can work together to determine when to end this temporary separation.
If you and your baby are not separated, you can reduce the chances of your baby getting infected by washing your hands thoroughly and wearing a facemask or face covering before touching your baby. Your providers may help with other precautions, like keeping a curtain between you and your baby.
Should you breastfeed your baby if you have COVID-19?
So far, the COVID-19 virus has not been found in the breast milk of women with COVID-19. Experts think that the infection spreads mainly through small liquid droplets from the nose or mouth when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says if you have COVID-19 you may pump your milk and a healthy caregiver can feed your breast milk to your baby. A mom with COVID-19 who wants to breastfeed directly needs to:
- Use a cloth (or facemask, if available) to cover her face and nose
- Wash her hands and breast thoroughly before and after touching her baby
- Constantly clean the surfaces she touches
- Properly clean her breast pump, if she uses one
When can you be around others after having COVID-19?
If you think or know you had COVID-19 and had the symptoms of the virus, you can be around others after:
- At least 10 days since symptoms first appeared and
- At least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication and
- When your symptoms have improved
If you had a positive COVID-19 test, you can be around others when:
- You have no fever and
- Your respiratory symptoms have improved and
- You have two negative COVID-19 tests in a row at least 24 hours apart
If you tested positive for COVID-19 but had no symptoms, you can be with other people 10 days after you received your positive test results.
If you’ve had close contact with someone with COVID-19 but don’t know if you have the virus, you should stay home for 14 days after you last saw that person and look for symptoms of the virus.
Are children and babies more likely to get COVID-19 than adults?
Recent data shows that compared to adults, babies and children generally have less severe COVID-19 symptoms. However, among babies and children, babies less than one year old are at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.
Most children with COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms. Based on limited data, the risk of serious problems in children with COVID-19 appears to be low at this time. Children with certain medical conditions, such as chronic lung disease, asthma, heart conditions or issues with their immune systems might be at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.
Recent data shows that many children with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) have had the virus that causes COVID-19 or had been around someone with COVID-19. MIS-C is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, blood and blood vessels, mucous membranes, nervous system, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or digestive tract.
We do not yet know what causes MIS-C. The illness can be serious or even deadly, but most children who have had MIS-C have gotten better. The signs and symptoms of MIS-C include fever for 3 or more days, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, headache, neurological issues and feeling tired. Not all children will have all of these symptoms. Recent research found that many children develop heart issues with MIS-C, which can lead to deadly blood clots called aneurysms.
If your child has any of the emergency warning signs of MIS-C, seek emergency care right away:
- Trouble breathing
- Pain or pressure in the chest that doesn’t go away
- New confusion
- Not able to wake up or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
- Severe abdominal pain
Don’t skip your baby’s postpartum appointments. If you are concerned about attending your appointment, talk to your provider.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
According to the CDC, the symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild symptoms to severe illness. Deaths have been reported from confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear 2-14 days after being infected:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle pain or body aches
- New loss of smell or taste
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
This list does not include all of the possible symptoms. We will continue to update this list as we learn more about COVID-19. See the coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms self-checker from the CDC. You may ask your provider to test you for COVID-19 but there is no known treatment for the virus.
What can you do if you get infected with COVID-19?
If you have a fever or cough, you may have COVID-19. Call your health care provider and ask what you should do.
Monitor your symptoms. If you have any of the following signs, get medical care right away:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Constant pain or pressure in the chest
- If you start feeling confused
- Bluish lips or face
- You have trouble waking up or can’t stay awake
According to the CDC, most people have mild illness and may be able to recover at home. If you have mild symptoms, follow these recommendations to care for yourself and avoid spreading the disease to others:
- Stay home except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas except if you are seeking medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas and avoid using public transportation or taxis (including ride-shares).
- Take care of yourself. Get rest and drink liquids. Ask your health care provider if you should take over-the-counter medicines, which may help you feel better.
- Stay in touch with your provider. Talk to your provider online, by phone, or e-mail if possible. Be sure to get care if you have trouble breathing or have any other emergency warning signs.
- Limit in-person visits to the pharmacy. Make plans to pick up all of your prescriptions at the same time.
- Call the hospital or medical office before you show up. Be sure to tell the staff that you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed. Put on a face covering before you enter the facility.
- Stay separate from others in your home. Stay in a specific room and away from other people and pets you live with. This is called isolation. Use a separate bathroom, if possible.
- Wear a cloth face covering to cover your nose and mouth or a face covering when you are around other people. Wear a face covering to help protect others in case you’re infected but don’t have symptoms. CDC says you may use a scarf or a bandana to cover your nose and mouth if a face covering is not available. Keep the covering on your face the entire time you’re in public. Secure it under your chin and try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face. Make sure you can breathe easily. Don’t put the covering around your neck or up on your forehead, and if you touch it, wash your hands. You don’t need to wear the cloth face covering if you are alone.
- Clean your hands often. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Always wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food. Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into your arm. Throw used tissues in the trash. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds right after coughing or sneezing. You also can use alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol. Use enough hand sanitizer so that it takes at least 20 seconds for your hands to dry.
- Don’t share personal household items. Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, cellphones, towels, or bedding with other people in your home. After using these items, wash them thoroughly. Use hot, soapy water or a dishwasher to wash your dishes and utensils.
- Clean and disinfect objects in your isolation area every day. This includes areas you frequently touch and in the bathroom you use. Your caregiver should clean other parts of the house outside of your isolation area. These include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, light switches, cabinet handles, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets and bedside tables. Use a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. If your caregiver needs to clean and disinfect your bedroom or bathroom, they should wear a face covering and disposable gloves. See CDC’s complete disinfection guide for more information.
If it’s been confirmed that you have COVID-19, stay under home isolation and follow precautions until the risk of passing the illness to others is thought to be low. Talk to your provider about when you should stop home isolation and taking precautions.
Seek medical attention right away if your symptoms are getting worse. If you are having difficulty breathing or your symptoms are worsening, don’t wait to get medical care. If you need to call 911, notify them that you have or are being evaluated for COVID-19.
How does COVID-19 spread?
We are still learning about how COVID-19 spreads.
- Mainly from person to person. Between close contact (about 6 feet or less away) with someone infected. The virus travels from person to person through respiratory droplets when the infected person coughs or sneezes.
- Possibly by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or possibly your eyes.
While we are still learning more about this virus, at this time, the risk of COVID-19 spreading from animals to people is considered to be low. It does seem that the virus can spread from people to animals in some situations, according to the CDC. Don’t let pets interact with people outside the household. If someone in your household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets.
According to the CDC, many people without symptoms are spreading the virus. Some are “asymptomatic,” meaning they have the virus but don’t have symptoms. Others are “pre-symptomatic,” which means they have the virus but show no symptoms for a while, but later they develop symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people who are close to each other while speaking, coughing or sneezing—even if those people do not have symptoms.
How can you prevent the spread of COVID-19?
The best way to prevent getting infected is to avoid being exposed to this virus. You can follow the same steps you take to prevent getting sick with a cold or the flu to protect yourself from COVID-19. This includes:
- Stay at home as much as you can. If you have to run errands, follow appropriate guidelines.
- Practice social distancing. Social distancing, also called “physical distancing,” means keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home. When out with others, keep at least 6 feet apart (two arms’ lengths) from others. Follow CDC guidelines when going to public places. Avoid gathering in groups and going to crowded places. Keeping away from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick. Remember, people without symptoms may be spreading the virus. Be sure to follow the CDC’s guidelines regarding social events.
- Get routine vaccines. While there’s no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 at the moment, routine vaccines are an important part of protecting your health. Receiving some vaccines while you’re pregnant, like the influenza (flu) and Tdap vaccines, can help protect you and your baby. Talk with your provider about which vaccines you should have.
- Stay home when you’re sick and avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into your arm. Throw used tissues in the trash.
- Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before and after touching anyone. You also can use alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol. Use enough hand sanitizer so that it takes at least 20 seconds for your hands to dry.
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch regularly using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Use hot, soapy water or a dishwasher to wash your dishes and utensils.
- When around others, use a cloth face cover or a face covering to protect your nose and mouth. Everyone needs to wear a face covering, except babies under 2 years old or anyone who has trouble breathing.
See CDC’s information on how to create homemade cloth face covering.
What do you need to know about traveling?
- CDC recommends avoiding travel by cruise ship, especially if you have health conditions like diabetes, heart disease or lung disease. Traveling can increase your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. Social distancing rules may be different in some areas compared to where you live.
- Check CDC travel notices for information about traveling.
Last reviewed July 21, 2020