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Pregnancy and coronavirus

Being pregnant is an exciting and anxious time for anyone. With the coronavirus pandemic changing how we live our lives this is particularly true at the moment. You may have heard lots about pregnant women being in the vulnerable group when it comes to the virus. You might also be wondering what that means for you and your baby. We’ve got the most up-to-date information to help keep you in the know.

Changes to maternity services

Due to coronavirus there may have been changes to the maternity services provided. The NHS are confident you’ll continue to receive maternity care throughout your pregnancy, but don’t be afraid to raise any worries with your midwife. It’s also important to remember that these changes are to keep you, your baby, and your community safe. Visit NHS Inform to find out more.

Being in an at-risk group

Along with the elderly and people with serious health problems, as a precaution pregnant women are considered to be in an at-risk group. This doesn’t mean you are more likely to catch the virus. It also doesn’t mean that you are more likely to become seriously ill if you do. Pregnancy in a small number of women can change how your body handles severe viral infections. Because of this it’s recommended that you take extra care and ensure you are following physical distancing guidelines at all times. 

Should I attend my antenatal and postnatal appointments?

Yes – It's really important that you keep going to your appointments when you're well. Some appointments might be by Near Me videocall. Attending your appointments will help your maternity team take care of you and your baby.

You should continue to follow health advice during your pregnancy. This includes keeping track of your baby's movements and calling your midwife or maternity unit right away if you're concerned about your physical or mental health or the health of your baby.

It is also important to go to any vaccination appointments during your pregnancy and when your baby arrives.

Group antenatal classes are now restarting, with physical distancing in place. Please speak to your midwife to find out what's available in your area. You can also access online antenatal classes (using the access code TARTAN) and you can discuss the content with your midwife at your next appointment. 

Can someone come with me to my appointments?

If you live in an area in level 0-2, you can have one supportive person to accompany you to all your appointments (this could be the baby's father, a partner, family member or friend). You may also be able to bring an additional visitor, for example, your 'back up' birthing partner. For areas in levels 3 and 4, one supportive person can accompany you to the booking scan, 20 week scan and any emergency appointments. Arrangements are subject to local risk assessments and physical distancing, provided that person is not ill or showing any symptoms of coronavirus. Face masks and physical distancing will be required for both yourself and your supportive person during all hospital visits. Smaller waiting areas may have further restrictions. 

If you have older children you’ll need to arrange childcare for them – our page on childcare explains your options.

If you need additional support, for example, from a carer, advocate or translator, or in the case of a minor, a parent, they can come along as well as the person you’ve chosen to support you.

Are there any procedures for going to the maternity unit?

When you, your birth partner or key visitor are attending the maternity unit for appointments or when your baby is due, you should all wear face coverings, similar to those that are compulsory in shops and on public transport, if you can't maintain a 2 metre distance from other people. Everyone must also stick to strict hand and respiratory hygiene by washing your hands with soap and water, or using alcohol hand gel, before entering and leaving the unit or ward and covering their nose and mouth with a disposable tissue when sneezing, coughing, wiping or blowing your nose. Tissues should be disposed of immediately in the bin and hand hygiene performed immediately afterwards. You can check the guidance for hospital visiting here.

You should maintain physical distancing and shouldn’t visit other patients or other clinical areas while you’re there.

Should I go to work?

If you’re pregnant and you can work from home, you should do so. If you can’t work from home, talk to your line manager or HR team about how you can modify what you do so you can minimise the amount of people you come into contact with. If you work in a public-facing role, your employer should carry out a risk assessment and you should only carry on working if the risk assessment supports this.

If you’re in your third trimester (more than 28 weeks’ pregnant), or have an underlying health condition (such as heart or lung disease) you should work from home where possible, avoid contact with anyone with symptoms of coronavirus, and try to socialise with as few people as possible.

You can find more information on returning to work during coronavirus here, and the ACAS website has more information on your rights at work when you’re pregnant.

What if I have coronavirus symptoms?

If you have coronavirus symptoms (a high temperature or a new persistent cough or a loss of/change in smell or taste) you need to stay at home for 10 days and everyone in your household must isolate for 14 days. Call your midwife to let them know, and book a test online on the NHS Inform website. If you can’t book online, you can call 0800 028 2816. Our page on coronavirus and your family has more information.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus and/or are self-isolating please contact your midwife and ask for advice on going to your routine appointments. Don't reduce your number of visits without speaking with your maternity team first.

Looking after yourself

It’s okay to feel anxious about what’s going on. These are uncertain times and it’s perfectly natural to be worried. But remember you’re not alone, and that by following the most up-to-date advice can help you and your baby stay safe. We’ve put together some advice on looking after your mental health while you’re at home.

Giving birth

It’s okay if you are worried about going to hospital at the moment. Maternity services are a vital part of the NHS and maternity staff are there to keep you safe and comfortable during birth.

Whatever level your area is in, your birth partner can be present – they have always been seen as an essential visitor throughout the pandemic. In addition, if you live in an area in level 0-2 you are allowed an additional birth partner, subject to local risk assessments and physical distancing. However, if either birth partner has symptoms of coronavirus, are self-isolating or have returned from a country requiring quarantine, they mustn’t come to the hospital with you, so it’s a good idea to have ‘back up’ birth partner on standby just in case. Speak to your midwife if you have any worries.

Your birth partner can also accompany you if you’re being induced, as long as it’s possible to maintain a reasonable level of physical distancing from other patients. If you have to have a caesarean or other operation during the birth, your birth partner can also be present, unless you need a general anaesthetic. 

In labour you may notice that midwives and the maternity team caring for you are wearing protective clothing such as aprons, masks or eye protection. This may seem a bit impersonal or even scary, but these measures are there to protect you and your baby, the staff caring for you and to reduce the risk of spreading infection.

If you’re in labour and you require additional support, for example, from a carer, advocate or translator, or in the case of a minor, a parent, this person won’t count as a visitor.

If you have other children, you can find out more about your childcare options here.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has some more information on their website.

Can I have visitors in hospital?

After your baby's born, you and your baby will be moved to a ward. Your birth partner may be able to visit you on the post natal ward with some time restrictions to support physical distancing. If you live in an area in level 0-2, an additional designated visitor can also visit, subject to local risk assessments and physical distancing, provided they are not unwell or have any symptoms of coronavirus. Please speak to your midwife to see the guidelines in your local area.

Whilst we understand that this may be difficult, it’s essential that we maintain physical distancing and limit the number of visitors to hospitals during this time to protect other pregnant women, their babies, and staff.

Can I have a home birth?

During this pandemic, some birth choices such as the homebirth service were unavailable. However, these restrictions are now changing and all Health Boards should be able to provide all choices to women, including home births. Speak to your midwife or maternity team, who will provide you with up to date information on your options in your area.

Taking your baby home

If you and your baby are well you’ll be able to go home from the hospital as soon as possible. Before you’re discharged, the maternity team will discuss your postnatal care with you. Your midwife, health visitor and family nurse will support you at home, so you’ll have plenty of help.

Try to think of this positively, as a time for you and your immediate family to bond with your new baby. You can find out more about bonding with your baby here.

If you become unwell in any way once you’re home with your baby, you should contact your GP, midwife or maternity unit.

  • For non-emergency concerns call NHS 24 on 111.
  • If it's an emergency phone 999.

Don’t worry about ‘bothering’ the doctor or midwife – you’re not!

Caring for your new baby

Very few babies have caught coronavirus. However, it is possible for them to catch it, so in order to be safe it’s best to:

  • take your baby home from hospital as soon as it’s safe to do so
  • follow government advice on self-isolation and physical distancing
  • keep your baby away from anybody with a cough, fever or who is ill with other symptoms such as a runny nose, vomiting or diarrhoea.

You can find out more about caring for your new baby during coronavirus at the NHS Inform website. There is more advice on coping with the first few days with your new baby here.

Breastfeeding

We have advice on breastfeeding during coronavirus in case you have any concerns. Breastfeeding your baby is recommended as it helps protect them by building up their immune system. We also have information about coronavirus and formula feeding safely.

Registering the birth and claiming child benefit

Birth registration has now resumed in Scotland, after being put on hold due to coronavirus. You can find out more about this on the National Records of Scotland website. However, you can still claim Child Benefit without having to register your child’s birth – simply add a note along with the claim to state you haven’t been able to register your baby’s birth yet. Here’s some wording you can use:

Please note that my child’s birth has not yet been registered due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. I am aware I can still claim so my child benefit form is attached.

You can find information on claiming child benefit during the coronavirus outbreak on the UK Government website.

Further support

If you have any concerns about the effect of coronavirus on your pregnancy or on your birth plan speak to your midwife. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website has information about coronavirus and pregnancy. There is also lots of information on the NHS Inform website.