Advice for pregnant women

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If you're pregnant, you may be feeling anxious about how coronavirus (COVID-19) could affect you, your baby and your pregnancy care.

If you are worried or have any questions, we encourage you to speak to your pregnancy care team.

Please let us know if you are a maternity patient of the Women’s and you:

  • have symptoms of coronavirus
  • are waiting on a coronavirus test result
  • or someone close to you has recently tested positive for coronavirus

You can call us on 8345 2000 (Parkville) or 9076 1233 (Sandringham). You will not miss out on the care you need. Whatever your circumstance, we are here to help you.

Pregnancy and your risk

There's currently no evidence that pregnant women are at increased risk of becoming infected with COVID-19. However, pregnant women should be considered a vulnerable group and take all precautions to reduce the risk of becoming infected.

If you're pregnant, it's essential that you:

  • Practise good hygiene – wash your hands and cough and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow
  • Keep your distance – stay 1.5 metres away from people where you can
  • Wear a face mask – this is an important safety measure and being pregnant does not provide an exemption. Read about face mask exemptions here.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces regularly (for example phones, keyboards, door handles, light switches, bench tops)
  • Stay home and get tested if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, however mild.

Some pregnant women are more likely to have severe illness from COVID-19, particularly if they:

  • are older than 35 years
  • are overweight or obese
  • have pre-existing (pre-pregnancy) high blood pressure
  • have pre-existing (pre-pregnancy) diabetes (type 1 or type 2)

Pregnant women with COVID-19 also have a higher risk of certain complications, including:

  • An increased risk of needing admission to hospital
  • An increased risk of needing admission to an intensive care unit
  • An increased risk of needing invasive ventilation (breathing life support)

COVID-19 during pregnancy also increases the risk of complications for the newborn, including:

  • A slightly increased risk of being born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
  • An increased risk of needing admission to a hospital newborn care unit.

While there have been some cases overseas where the virus has passed from mother to the baby, the risk of transmission is understood to be low. It’s important to note that research shows that in almost every case, babies with the virus have recovered very well.

There's also no evidence coronavirus can be passed on to your baby in breast milk, so the benefits of breastfeeding and the protection it offers outweigh any risks.

Please speak to your midwife, obstetrician or General Practitioner about your specific situation.   

COVID-19 vaccination

The Pfizer vaccine (Cominarty) and Moderna vaccine (Spikevax) are safe and effective at any stage of pregnancy, or if breastfeeding or if planning to get pregnant. 

If Pfizer or Moderna is not accessible, the AstraZeneca vaccine can be considered in discussion with a healthcare provider about the benefits and potential rare risks.

This advice, and the evidence behind it is, is outlined in the Australian Government’s Shared decision making guide for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning pregnancy.

You can also see our Vaccine information webpage.

Appointments and scans

You will continue to have regular appointments while you're pregnant, but they might be done differently. For example:

  • Some of your appointments may be done over the phone or by video call.  
  • If you need to come in for a face-to-face appointment, you must attend alone. Your partner/support person can be on speaker phone or video call during the appointment. In exceptional circumstances, please discuss your situation with our staff.
  • At face-to-face appointments, you will be screened on entry and provided with a face mask to wear.    

While these changes have been made to help keep everyone safe, we realise they may be disappointing for some women.

If you develop symptoms of coronavirus

If you begin to feel unwell and have a fever, chills or sweats, a cough or sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, or loss of sense of smell or taste you should get tested for coronavirus.

Some people may also experience headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Visit the Department of Health website to find a testing location close to home or contact the Victorian Government 24-hour coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398.

If you have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call 000 and ask for an ambulance.

If you have any other symptoms

If you have any other symptoms, or anything else you're worried about, you should still get medical help as you usually would.

Contact your GP for an appointment or speak to your midwife or maternity team if you have any questions.

It’s very important that pregnant women continue to get the medical care and attention they need. Please do not put off seeking medical attention if anything is bothering you.

When to contact your GP or come into hospital

» Your baby stops moving or you are concerned that your baby is moving much less than normal.

» You have:

  • vaginal bleeding
  • fever, chills or a temperature of more than 37.8°C
  • severe nausea and repeated vomiting
  • persistent headaches that won’t go away
  • blurred vision, or spots before your eyes
  • sharp pains in the abdomen (with or without bleeding)
  • pain or burning when you pass urine
  • irregular contractions at any time
  • sudden swelling of your face, hands, ankles or fingers
  • persistent itchy skin
  • exposure to rubella (German measles) or chickenpox.

» Your waters break or if you have a constant clear watery vaginal discharge.

» You’ve had any trauma such as an assault, a car accident or a serious fall.

Labour and birth

When you are admitted to hospital, you will undergo a COVID test. This is a quick process on arrival and is conducted as a precaution in case theatre transfer is required.

In addition to our hospital midwives, having a birth partner to provide personal support is important for your wellbeing during labour.

Under current hospital restrictions, you'll be able to have one (1) birth partner with you. As there is no waiting area, your birth partner will need to stay in the birthing room, with reasonable exceptions of course. 

Your birth partner will need to pass screening. If they do not pass screening unfortunately, they will not be allowed to enter our hospital. 

Our midwives and doctors will be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) including gowns, masks, gloves and eye protection during your labour.

They will work with you to manage the pain of your labour, with a number of non-medical and medical interventions available. 

Keep asking your doctor or midwife any questions throughout your labour and birth. Our staff are there to help and guide you.

While they will be wearing PPE, you won’t be required to wear a mask or any other PPE during your labour. You may be required to wear a mask if you move around the hospital, and your support person will be required to wear a mask at all times.

These measures are in place to keep you, your baby and the staff caring for you safe.

After the birth

After your baby is born and providing it is well, you’ll be able to have skin-to-skin contact in the birth suite. You'll also be encouraged to breastfeed. 

When you move to the postnatal ward with your baby, you can have one (1) visitor each day. This includes your partner or designated support person, who can visit outside of visiting hours. Visiting hours in Parkville are 2pm to 8pm and in Sandringham they are 2pm to 7pm. 

Please be aware, due to space limitations in some areas/rooms, your visitor may be asked by ward staff to step out of your room or in the case of a shared patient room, may be asked to leave. This is to ensure physical distancing can be maintained and to keep other women and babies in our hospital as well as our staff, safe.  

For information on our current visitor policy for all maternity wards, please see our visitor policy page.

When you are discharged from hospital, you will still receive support through our postnatal care in the home program. Some of these appointments may be done in person or over the phone.

We know this is a challenging time and we appreciate your understanding and patience as we navigate through this global pandemic. If you have any suggestions or feedback, we welcome it here.

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