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Having a baby during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tips, information and resources

If you’re pregnant, you likely have questions about how COVID-19 will impact your pregnancy and unborn baby. You may also be wondering what life will be like after you have your baby.

Sunnybrook experts, including Dr. Jon Barrett, head of maternal fetal medicine at Sunnybrook, and Dr. Peggy Richter, head of the Frederick W. Thompson Anxiety Disorders Centre, answer some commonly asked questions.

- Updated May 22, 2020

Are pregnant women more susceptible to COVID-19?

Dr. Jon Barrett: The good news is that it looks like pregnant women are not more at risk for contracting COVID-19. Unlike other coronaviruses, like SARS and MERS, this new virus doesn’t go deep down into your lungs. We're getting new data all the time, so information could change. That said, I'd be surprised if the risks to pregnant women change. There was quite a lot of exposure to moms in China and we received data from that country. The mortality rate for pregnant moms who were exposed was zero whereas in the non-pregnant population it was higher than that.

Should I be taking greater precautions in terms of self-isolation during my pregnancy?

Dr. Jon Barrett: You should take the precautions being recommended by the Government of Canada and local public health agencies like Toronto Public Health. There doesn’t seem to be any reason for a pregnant woman to be more or less concerned than someone who is not expecting.

What is the risk to my unborn baby if I contract COVID-19?

Dr. Jon Barrett: It’s true that most viruses can cross the placenta, but the babies born to women who had COVID-19 seem to do well. Newborns, along with children, seem to be able to handle COVID-19 better than adults.

I’m having my baby very soon, and I understand there are new restrictions about hospital visitors?

Dr. Jon Barrett: That’s right. Most hospitals in Canada have implemented visitor restrictions to ensure the safety of our patients and staff. You can read more about Sunnybrook’s new policy for our obstetrics patients.

What will happen if I’m presenting symptoms and go into labour?

Dr. Jon Barrett: You would be admitted to hospital and managed with the proper precautions. Your health-care team would wear masks and your support person would be masked and not be allowed out of your room. You would deliver your baby, and your baby would stay with you as long as your baby is well.

I'm finding this to be a really stressful time to have a baby. Are there resources to help me manage my stress and anxiety?

We understand this is a difficult time for families who are expecting a baby. Sunnybrook has some resources available that you may find helpful during this time:

Our social work team in the DAN Women & Babies Program have also suggested some mental health resources which may be useful to you:

  • Bounce Back Ontario – free online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) program and phone support
  • 211 Ontario: For information and referrals for community, government, social and health services, including mental health resources across Ontario call 211 or 1-877-330-3213. Live web chat also available from Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Talk 4 Healing: Indigenous women can get help, support and resources seven days a week, 24 hours a day, with services in 14 languages by calling 1-855-554-4325 or texting 1-855-554-4325.

Remember: Your care team is here for you. If you are finding yourself feeling anxious and overwhelmed, please reach out. Your team is here to support you, and can help connect you with the resources you need during this time.

I was really looking forward to getting together with my family and close friends when I was home with my baby. I’m worried I’ll feel isolated.

Dr. Peggy Richter: These are very different times for families who have just welcomed a baby. I urge new mothers to stay connected. We are more equipped than ever to stay connected remotely with loved ones and friends. Reach out to share experiences and ask for help. Loved ones can drop off food on your door step or walk your dog when you’re at home with your baby.

I tested positive for COVID-19, should I still breastfeed my baby?

Do you have any other advice for those first few days and weeks after I have my baby?

Dr. Peggy Richter: I urge everyone, especially new mothers, to practice good self-care. This means extra rest and relaxation. Everyone has their own favourite activity to unwind, so make that a priority over the days and weeks ahead. Try to maintain a healthy diet, get enough rest, and be physically active (even at home), as these factors can significantly impact overall mood and quality of sleep.


View all COVID-19 information at sunnybrook.ca/COVID19