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COVID-19 (Also Called SARS-CoV-2 or COVID or Coronavirus) in Pregnancy

COVID-19 (also called SARS-CoV-2) is a coronavirus that causes an upper respiratory illness. It is transmitted from person to person through respiratory exposures.

Symptoms of COVID can be highly variable, and some people may not have any symptoms. Symptoms typically appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus and can include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Note: This list does not include all possible symptoms.

All people, but especially those that are pregnant should follow preventive measures (universal masking, physical distancing, hand hygiene) to prevent acquiring the corona virus. If you are a in a health care profession, wearing appropriate personal protective equipment ("PPE") can also reduce the risk. If you are exposed, testing and quarantine are recommended to prevent transmission to other people. Prompt testing with isolation and contact tracing can significantly decrease COVID-19 transmission. When vaccination becomes available, this will also help to decrease the risk. 

COVID-19 is a serious risk in pregnancy. People who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease, sickle cell disease, or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.

Pregnancy is a high-risk condition for the development of more severe COVID symptoms and increases the risk of hospitalization and complications in those that get COVID-19. If you get COVID-19, and develop severe symptoms, you may need to be admitted and/or delivered early. You can learn lots more about COVID in pregnancy and lactation at the CDC website.

If you do have COVID while you are pregnant or lactating, please consider signing up for one of the COVID in pregnancy registries or studies- including:

  • PRIORITY Study: A nationwide study of pregnant and recently pregnant women who are either under investigation for Coronavirus infection (COVID-19) or have been confirmed to have COVID-19. Health professionals can refer patients or patients can self-enroll on the PRIORITY website.
  • OTIS/MotherToBaby: An observational COVID-19 and pregnancy study open to women in United States and Canada with known or suspected COVID-19 infection at any point during a current or recent pregnancy or within 30 days of the last menstrual period before conception. The study is also recruiting breastfeeding women with known or suspected COVID-19 infection for a lactation study. Learn more on the MotherToBaby website.
  • The University of Washington is studying how COVID-19 might cause problems in pregnancy such as preterm labor and more severe disease in the mother. The purpose of this study, "Immune Response to Infections in Pregnant and Non-Pregnant Women and Men" is to investigate immune response of mothers and newborns with COVID-19 in pregnancy, influenza-like illness, and healthy pregnancies.

When to Seek Emergency Medical Attention

Look for emergency warning signs* for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

*This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your primary medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

Call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility: Notify the operator that you are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19.

Learn more about COVID from the CDC Symptoms of Coronavirus page and from URMC Coronavirus page. The University of Rochester has also made a number of changes to our visitation and policies to help keep patients safe. Also see the Strong Memorial Hospital Obstetrics service guidelines for visitors.

Please call your primary care physician or utilize the NY State testing centers.  Our office cannot order this testing for you. 

Yes. All patients are tested for COVID-19 before admission to the hospital. Our office will arrange this for you. If you come into the hospital in labor or for a planned admission, we will test you on arrival. If you test positive, learn more about the restriction for patients with COVID on the obstetrical service. Please note these are both subject to change at any time depending on rates of COVID in the community.

Learn more about the current visitation rules on the UR Medicine Coronavirus site. Also, see our letter to patients to learn more about the rules for OB/GYN as of 12/3/2020. Please note these are both subject to change at any time depending on rates of COVID in the community.  

  • A COVID shot is a vaccination to the COVID-19 which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • These are new vaccines, and there are several different versions.
  • Vaccination represents the most promising strategy for combating COVID-19.
  • These vaccines DO NOT contain live virus.
  • You CANNOT get COVID from the vaccination.
  • You can view the full patient information sheet for the COVID Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and Moderna vaccine.

Pregnancy is a high-risk condition for developing a severe form of COVID-19 disease, with an increased risk for hospitalization, complications and death. More than half of pregnant individuals also fall into another high-priority category, including frontline workers and those with underlying medical conditions. If you get COVID-19 in pregnancy, and develop severe symptoms, you may need to be admitted and/or delivered early.

Since the theoretical risk of fetal harm from mRNA vaccines is very low, the benefits from vaccination likely greatly outweigh these risks in anyone exposed to COVID-19 at work or at home.

Several national leadership organizations in pregnancy and neonatal care including - SMFMAWHONNNPWH, and ACNM have put out joint recommendations about COVID-19 and COVID vaccinations in pregnancy, with a great deal of more information about the risks of COVID-19 in pregnancy, and a discussion of the vaccine in pregnancy and lactation. These groups recommend that healthcare workers and others who are considered prioritized for vaccination, such as teachers or first responders, be offered the vaccine even if they pregnant or lactating, and discuss the options with their provider. The American college of Obstetrics and Gynecology similarly recommends that for pregnant individuals, the decision to vaccinate must be left to each patient in consult with their trusted clinician, as well as notes the high risk nature of COVID infection in pregnancy. Learn more about vaccines on the CDC website as well.

There is also no current information about the safety of the new COVID-19 vaccines during breastfeeding. Based upon the limited information that we have; we believe it will be safe for use during breastfeeding. The URMC lactation service has more information about COVID and lactation.

These decisions are complicated, and we understand that you may wish to speak to someone about them directly. Please talk to your obstetrical provider if you would like more information or help with making this decision. The MotherToBaby service has put together more information on vaccination and breastfeeding. They are also happy to speak with you as well, by text, chat, or phone.

Also see Doctors Say It's Safe for Pregnant Women to Take COVID-19 Vaccine, where Dr. Eva Pressman talks with 13 WHAM about the vaccine.

If you do choose to get the vaccine while pregnant or lactating, there is a national registry to help us learn about the outcomes and safety that you can join.