Pregnancy is a time of joy and hope for most women and their families. With the continuing risk of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, we understand that pregnant women will be feeling anxious for themselves and their baby.
The following information is to inform our patients of the knowledge available to us now regarding risks to pregnant women and their babies, advice regarding self-care during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and changes to the way that antenatal and postnatal care will be delivered.
How does COVID-19 affect pregnant women and babies?
The information on how COVID-19 effects pregnant women and babies continues to grow. The Delta strain is known to be more contagious and younger people, including those who are pregnant, are more at risk than at first thought.
Pregnant women have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Their babies are more at risk of being born early. As a result pregnant women are now a priority group for vaccination.
Your pregnancy care is still very important. Some of your appointments may be by telephone or telehealth, while others will stay face-to-face. ISLHD is taking all precautions to keep you, your baby and our staff safe.
For more information visit the Australian Government Department of Health website: https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2021/08/covid-19-vaccination-shared-decision-making-guide-for-women-who-are-pregnant-breastfeeding-or-planning-pregnancy-covid-19-vaccination-shared-decision-making-guide-for-women-who-are-pregnant-breastfeeding-or-planning-pregna_0.pdf
Pregnant women are now eligible to receive the vaccine during pregnancy. To access your vaccination there are a number of options -
- book in through your GP if they are providing vaccinations
- register with the Wollongong Mass Vaccination Centre - https://nswhvam.health.nsw.gov.au/vam
- or use the Australian Government Eligibility tracker to book your appointment - https://www.health.gov.au/resources/apps-and-tools/covid-19-vaccine-eligibility-checker
Should I still get the Flu vaccine and whooping cough vaccine?
Yes, it is very important to still have these vaccines during pregnancy
Is it safe to have my baby at the hospital with the COVID-19 virus around?
One of the safest places to birth your baby is in hospital where you have access to highly trained staff and emergency facilities, if they are required. Your care in hospital, other than that specifically related to infection control, should not differ very much from usual. Being active when you are in labour, and the use of water immersion, nitrous oxide and epidural analgesia are not affected by COVID-19 practices.
Can I breastfeed my baby?
ISLHD continues to support you to breastfed your baby. There is no evidence that the virus is carried in breastmilk and the well-known benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any possible risks of passing COVID-19 through breastmilk. Breast milk protects babies from many viral and bacterial infections.
If a mother has COVID-19 infection she will be cared for in a room with her baby, unless she is very unwell. Hand washing is important before holding or breastfeeding the baby or expressing breast milk, as well as the use of a face mask when close to the baby for feeding.
If a mother and baby are separated for medical reasons we will support the mother to express to provide breast milk for her baby.
Is it safe to have a COVID-19 vaccination while breastfeeding?
It is recommended you have the COVID-19 vaccination when you are eligible.
The vaccine has not been shown to enter breast milk and is considered safe for the breastfeeding mother and baby.
The immune system of women who have had the vaccine make antibodies (infection fighting cells) to COVID-19 after having the vaccine which has been found in breast milk. This is thought to possibly provide some protection to the baby.
What precautions for pregnant women need to make to avoid COVID-19?
- Hand washing regularly and frequently with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
- Avoiding anyone who is coughing and sneezing
- Avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth
- Physical-distancing and following recommended stay-at-home instructions
- Getting tested early if you have any symptoms
- Getting appropriate treatment and care if infection is significant
- Limit of support person to one while in hospital and limiting people in your home
- If your partner or support person has COVID-19, or is symptomatic, they should not accompany you to the hospital
Pregnant women are advised to avoid all non-essential travel. It is safest to stay at home and to avoid public spaces. Reduce your use of public transport and work from home, if possible.
Will my care change as a result of COVID-19?
Changes to routine antenatal care may include:
- Reducing, postponing and/or increasing the gap between antenatal visits
- Limiting time of all antenatal visits to less than 15 minutes
- Using telehealth consultations as a replacement, or in addition to, routine visits
- Antenatal classes may be offered in a virtual format
- Limiting visitors to your partner or support person while in hospital
- Children may not be able to visit while you are in hospital
If I get symptoms of COVID-19 and am pregnant or recently had my baby what do I do?
If you develop cold/flu symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, nausea, fatigue, difficulty breathing) please get tested.
If you have any of these symptoms, or are required to self-isolate, or are diagnosed with COVID-19, you should notify your healthcare provider to reschedule or delay your appointment. This will help you to continue to receive antenatal or postnatal care and reduce the risk to other pregnant patients or health workers.
Finally, your doctors, midwives and other health workers care about you and your baby. We understand that you will feel worried. Take the opportunity to rest, eat well and maintain your interests and hobbies, where possible. You are the best protection your baby has , so caring for yourself, your emotional and physical health, is what is most important.
The staff of the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District understand that everyone is very concerned at this time, perhaps more so when you are expecting or have just had a baby.
Please continue to follow the ISLHD updates on our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/IllaShoalHealth/
Discuss with your doctor, midwife or nurse if you feel your mental health is suffering and you would like help. The following links may also be useful:
Beyondblue - https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) - https://www.panda.org.au/
COPE (Centre of Perinatal Excellence) - https://www.cope.org.au/
Black Dog Institute - https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
- NSW Health - https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/communities-of-practice/Pages/guide-pregnant-women-and-new-parents.aspx
- Healthdirect hotline - 1800 022 222
- National Coronavirus Information line - 1800 020 080
Page updated 24/8/2021