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COVID-19 and Pregnancy

COVID-19, Vaccines, Breastfeeding and Pregnancy

Mary Washington Healthcare cares about the health and safety of our pregnant moms and their babies. The following information should help answer some of your questions regarding COVID-19, vaccine safety, visitation in the hospital, and more. If you have additional questions about COVID-19 and pregnancy, we encourage you to reach out to your OB, or call MWHC Health Link at 540.741.1000.

COVID-19 and pregnancy

Here is guidance based on the latest science:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes pregnant and recently pregnant women as a high-risk group for severe COVID-19 illness. It is recommended that all pregnant women be vaccinated and receive a booster, as it is the safest choice for you and your fetus.
  • The changes to your body while pregnant make you more susceptible to respiratory viruses, like COVID-19. Therefore, COVID-19 is more dangerous for pregnant women, compared to nonpregnant women who are the same age.
  • Being pregnant increases your risk of being hospitalized, needing a ventilator, or dying from the illness.
  • COVID-19 can lead to serious complications with your pregnancy, such as preeclampsia.
  • Health conditions such as obesity and gestational diabetes further increase your risk of severe illness.
  • There is an increased risk of preterm birth (less than 37 weeks of pregnancy) and the baby needing additional care in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
  • It is unlikely for a woman to transmit the virus to their baby while pregnant. However, it may be possible to transmit after the baby is born via respiratory particles; wearing a mask lowers this risk.
  • There are rare reports where the virus has been detected in samples of the breastmilk, blood, placenta, and amniotic fluid of infected pregnant women.
  • The baby is unlikely to be exposed to the virus during pregnancy.
  • The virus is unlikely to cause problems with the baby’s development and no long-term problems have been found so far.

Nevertheless, if you are pregnant public health officials recommend you take certain safety precautions.

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Stay away from public places.
  • Reduce social contact with others through social distancing.
  • Avoid anyone who has symptoms of the virus.
  • Routinely clean any surfaces after each use.
  • Refrain from touching your face.

Suggested article: Breastfeeding and Caring for your Newborns if You Have COVID-19

COVID-19 and breastfeeding

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG​) recommend you continue to breastfeed your baby.

  • Current evidence suggests that the virus is not likely to be transmitted to your baby through breastmilk.
  • The virus can be transmitted through coughing, sneezing, and even breathing - small droplets can spread the virus from person to person.
  • You should always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before breastfeeding or expressing milk.

If you have tested positive for COVID-19 or are awaiting test results, follow these steps:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before you touch your baby.
  • Wear a mask during feedings or whenever you are within 6 feet of your baby. Your doctor may recommend using a breast pump and avoid feeding at the breast directly until your symptoms resolve.
  • Wear a mask and wash your hands before touching breast pumps or any parts.
  • After pumping, clean the pump and its parts thoroughly.
  • Routinely clean and disinfect any surface you touch.

Suggested article: Breastfeeding and Caring for your Newborns if You Have COVID-19

Vaccine safety when pregnant, breastfeeding or contemplating pregnancy

COVID-19 Vaccine For Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women And Individuals Contemplating Pregnancy

We understand being pregnant during a pandemic is very stressful and we are here to answer your questions about the COVID-19 vaccines. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized vaccines to fight COVID-19, which are safe, effective, and proven to prevent severe illness from the virus.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that all eligible persons, including pregnant and lactating individuals and those wanting to get pregnant, receive a COVID-19 vaccine and booster. Data suggest that the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any known or potential risks of vaccination.

To schedule a free COVID-19 vaccine, visit vaccines.gov.

Vaccine Safety While Pregnant

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes pregnant and recently pregnant women as a high-risk group for severe COVID-19 illness. The CDC, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine (SMFM) recommend that all pregnant women be vaccinated and receive a booster, as it is the safest choice for you and your fetus.

  • Data confirms that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe during pregnancy. The benefits of receiving a vaccine outweigh any known or potential risks of vaccination.
  • The vaccines do not contain the live virus and cannot cause infection-it does not give you COVID-19.
  • It is proven that vaccines lower the risk of infection from COVID-19.
  • The antibodies your body produces from the vaccine may be passed to your fetus and help protect them from the virus.

Suggested article: Why Should I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine While I’m Pregnant?

Vaccine Safety While Breastfeeding

It is recommended that all women who are breastfeeding be vaccinated and continue to do so after receiving the vaccine.

  • The vaccines do not contain the live virus and cannot cause infection in you or your baby. The vaccine does not give you COVID-19.
  • Reports show lactating women who receive the COVID-19 vaccine have antibodies in their breastmilk. The antibodies passed through your breastmilk may help protect your baby from the virus.

Breastmilk provides the best source of nutrition for your baby and their immune system. For breastfeeding questions, contact Mary Washington Hospital Lactation Services Department at 540.741.4465 or Stafford Hospital Lactation Services Department at 540.741.9236.

Vaccine Safety for Individuals Trying To Get Pregnant

It is recommended that all eligible men and women get a COVID-19 vaccine and booster.

  • There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility in women or men.
  • Studies show there is no difference in pregnancy success rates among vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals

How do the vaccines work?

  • The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccines. The vaccine teaches your body to make a “spike protein”, a harmless piece of what is on the surface of the COVID-19 virus.
  • The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is an adenovirus vaccine. It uses a harmless cold virus to deliver the DNA for the “spike protein” that is on the surface of the COVID-19 virus.*
  • The “spike protein” then triggers an immune response that then produces antibodies. The antibodies protect your body, should you ever get infected with the real virus.
  • These vaccines do not contain the live virus nor include ingredients that are known to be harmful to pregnant women or to the fetus. The vaccine does not give you COVID-19.
  • Your body’s immune response to the vaccine is what causes the side effect symptoms (like aches and fever). If you experience a fever, Tylenol (acetaminophen) may be taken during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
  • The vaccines do not alter the DNA of the mother or baby.
  • The vaccines do not cause infertility in women and men.

* The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been linked to a rare risk of blood clots for women younger than 50 years old. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are options in which this risk has not been seen.

Suggested article: Understanding How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

Possible side effects

Following your COVID-19 vaccine, it is common to experience short-term side effects. This is a result of your body’s immune response to the vaccine. It is not recommended to take pain relievers before the vaccine to try to prevent side effects.

Possible side effects may include pain at the injection site, fatigue, chills, headache, and fever.

If you experience side effects after receiving your vaccine, it is safe to take Tylenol (acetaminophen) while pregnant or breastfeeding. Should you have any concerns about your side effects, please consult your physician.

Understand as much as you can about COVID-19 and the available vaccines through trusted resources.

For questions, contact our MWHC Health Link nurse line from 7:00 a.m.-midnight. You can reach them at 540.741.1000.

COVID-19 positive OB patients

What if I test positive for COVID-19 upon admission or prior to my c-section?

We are taking extra steps to make our facilities as safe as possible so we can continue to provide quality care to our patients. If you test positive for COVID-19, special protocols are put in place to keep you, our associates and other patients safe. Except in rare occurrences where mom or baby have severe symptoms and need special care, such as the ICU or NICU, you will not be separated from your baby, even if you test positive for COVID-19.

Reducing the likelihood of exposure prior to delivery is the best way for you to have the delivery experience you’ve anticipated. These include wearing a mask outside of the home, quality handwashing, social distancing, and avoiding crowds especially non-essential outings or gatherings.

For questions, contact your OB or call MWHC Health Link at 540.741.1000.

Visitation for Labor & Delivery

Obstetrics Patients Visitation Details and Exceptions

  • Obstetrics (laboring and postpartum) patients can have two designated caregivers who remain with them in their treatment room for the entirety of their stay. In addition, a certified doula may be present through labor and delivery.
  • The designated caregivers may be instructed to leave the room during a procedure or test for their own safety or the safety of the patient and staff.
  • The designated caregivers must comply with MWHC visitation safety standards while in an MWHC facility.
  • The designated caregivers will be provided a visitor pass each day at the safety checkpoint entrance.

COVID-19 Obstetrics Patient Visitation Details and Exceptions

  • Obstetrics (laboring and postpartum) patients being tested or suspected for COVID-19 or have a positive COVID-19 test result may have two designated caregivers who remain with them in their treatment room.
  • The designated caregivers can remain with the patient in their treatment room for the entirety of their stay.
  • The designated caregivers may be instructed to leave the room during a procedure or test for their own safety or the safety of the patient and staff.
  • The designated caregivers must comply with the COVID-19 safety guidelines for visitation:
    • Sign a waiver acknowledging the risks of COVID-19 transmission.
    • Wear personal protective equipment including a gown, gloves, face shield, and level 1 mask always while in the patient's treatment room.
    • Review infection prevention education with the nursing staff prior to entering the patient’s treatment room.
  • The designated caregivers will be provided a visitor pass each day at the safety checkpoint entrance.
  • The designated caregivers must comply with MWHC visitation safety standards while in an MWHC facility.
  • Only designated caregivers or clergy may visit a suspected or positive COVID-19 patient. General visitation is not allowed.

Visitation for NICU/ILN

NICU/ILN Visitation Details and Exceptions

  • NICU patients can have up to two parents or legal guardians as designated caregivers. Two caregivers at a time can be with the patient as space allows.
  • The designated caregivers can remain with the patient in their treatment room for the entirety of their stay.
  • The designated caregivers may be instructed to leave the room during a procedure or test for their own safety or the safety of the patient and staff.
  • The designated caregivers will be provided a visitor pass each day at the safety checkpoint entrance.
  • The designated caregivers must comply with MWHC visitation safety standards while in an MWHC facility.
  • Only designated caregivers or clergy may visit NICU patients. General visitation is not allowed.

COVID-19 NICU Visitation Details and Exceptions

  • NICU patients being tested or suspected for COVID-19 or have a positive COVID-19 test result may have up to two parents or legal guardians as designated caregivers. Two designated caregivers at a time can be with the patient as space allows.
  • The designated caregivers can remain with the patient in their treatment room for the entirety of their stay.
  • The designated caregivers may be instructed to leave the room during a procedure or test for their own safety or the safety of the patient and staff.
  • The designated caregivers must comply with the COVID-19 safety guidelines for visitation:
    • Sign a waiver acknowledging the risks of COVID-19 transmission.
    • Wear personal protective equipment including a gown, gloves, face shield, and level 1 mask always while in the patients’ treatment room.
    • Review infection prevention education with the nursing staff prior to entering the patient’s treatment room.
  • The designated caregiver swill be provided a visitor pass each day at the safety checkpoint entrance.
  • The designated caregivers must comply with MWHC visitation safety standards while in an MWHC facility.
  • Only designated caregivers or clergy may visit a suspected or positive COVID-19 patient. General visitation is not allowed.

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