Advice for pregnant and breastfeeding women

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If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you may be feeling anxious about how COVID-19 could affect you and your baby.

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

The Coronavirus Victoria website also has general information about what to do if you test positive to COVID or if you are a close contact, tips for managing COVID at home, and how to book a vaccination appointment.

Pregnancy and your risk

Pregnant women should be considered a vulnerable group and take all precautions to reduce the risk of becoming infected. The best way to protect you and your baby is to be fully vaccinated, including a booster dose, against COVID.

While the effects of the new variant, Omicron, are still being studied, some pregnant women may experience severe illness from COVID, 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)
  • are unvaccinated.

Pregnant women with COVID 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)
  • An increased risk of stillbirth.

COVID 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 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 COVID 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.

Protecting yourself and your baby

The best way to protect you and your baby is to be vaccinated against COVID. Getting a vaccine is safer than getting COVID, and vaccination against COVID is now recommended for everyone aged five years and older.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are safe and effective at any stage of pregnancy, or if breastfeeding or if planning to get pregnant. Pfizer and Moderna are also the preferred brands for booster doses for all people, including in pregnancy.

As well as reducing the risk of severe illness and premature birth, vaccination may also provide indirect protection to babies by transferring antibodies through the placenta (during pregnancy) or through breastmilk (during breastfeeding).

You do not need to stop breastfeeding before or after receiving a COVID vaccination.

In addition to getting vaccinated, make sure that you:

  • Have a COVID test if you have any symptoms, however mild
  • 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 when required
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces regularly (for example phones, keyboards, door handles, light switches, bench tops).
  • Stay up-to-date with the latest advice on the Coronavirus Victoria website.

Please see ‘Related information’ at the bottom of this page for links to resources about vaccination.

I have COVID – what now?

If you are pregnant and positive for COVID, but have very mild or no symptoms, you will need to isolate at home. Make sure you follow the checklist for COVID cases, read about managing COVID-19 at home, drink plenty of fluids and rest.

As with any illness, even if you’re feeling well or only slightly unwell, it’s important to watch your symptoms and understand when you might need to get help. Read about symptoms to watch out for and when to get help.

No matter what your COVID status, if you think your baby's movements have decreased or you have other concerns about your pregnancy, don’t wait – contact your maternity care team or go to your maternity hospital immediately.

I’m a COVID contact – what now?

If you live with someone who is COVID positive or you have spent more than four hours inside a house with a COVID positive person, you are considered a COVID contact and will need to isolate at home for seven days.

If living in the same house, try to separate yourself from the COVID positive person, make sure you follow the checklist for COVID contacts, drink plenty of fluids, rest and monitor yourself for symptoms.

COVID and hospital appointments

If you are COVID positive or a COVID contact and due to come to the Women’s for a clinic appointment, please call us during business hours 8345 2000 (Parkville) or 9076 1233 (Sandringham). In some cases, we may reschedule your appointment, offer you a telehealth appointment, or make arrangements for your arrival.

COVID and having your baby at our hospital

If you are COVID positive or a COVID contact and you are due to give birth at our hospital within 7 days, please call us during business hours on 8345 2000 (Parkville) or 9076 1233 (Sandringham) to let us know.

The Women’s has all the facilities necessary to look after you, your birth partner and your baby in the event your baby needs to be born while you are still in your quarantine period.

If you are close to term, we will provide you with additional information about how and when to contact us, and the details of how and where you will be looked after in the hospital.

COVID and feeding your baby

There is no evidence that COVID can be passed on to your baby in breast milk, and the benefits of breastfeeding and the protection it offers outweigh any possible risks.

Even if you are COVID positive or a COVID contact, you’re encouraged to continue breastfeeding with some precautions in place, including:

  • Handwashing prior to touching the baby, breast pump or bottles
  • Wearing a mask whilst feeding and holding the baby
  • Following guidelines for cleaning/sterilisation of bottles and breast pump if you are using.

If you are too unwell to breastfeed, another option is to express regularly so that your baby keeps receiving your breastmilk.

If you are using infant formula, it should be a formula suitable for babies from birth to 12 months and careful attention should be paid to the directions to prepare. Cleaning and sterilising all equipment is very important when expressing or using formula.  

Reducing your risk

In addition to getting vaccinated, make sure that you:

  • Have a COVID test if you have any symptoms, however mild
  • 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 when required
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces regularly (for example phones, keyboards, door handles, light switches, bench tops).
  • Stay up-to-date – with COVID Safe Settings on the Victorian Government website.

If you have any general questions about COVID, please call the 24/7 Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398 or visit www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au



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