COVID-19 and Pregnancy
Reports and research show that pregnant and recently pregnant women have a higher risk of more severe illness from COVID-19 than nonpregnant women.
The best way to protect yourself and your baby against COVID-19 is to get vaccinated.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is an illness that affects the lungs and breathing. It is caused by a new coronavirus. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, and trouble breathing. COVID-19 may also cause stomach problems, such as nausea and diarrhea, and a loss of your sense of smell or taste. Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after you are exposed to the virus. Some people with COVID-19 may have no symptoms or only mild symptoms.
How does COVID-19 affect pregnant and recently pregnant people?
Reports and research show that pregnant and recently pregnant women have a higher risk of more severe illness from COVID-19 than nonpregnant women. Reports note that:
- Pregnant women who have COVID-19 and show symptoms are more likely than nonpregnant women with COVID-19 and symptoms to need care in an intensive care unit (ICU), to need a ventilator (for breathing support), or to die from the illness. Still, the overall risk of severe illness and death for pregnant women is low.
- Pregnant and recently pregnant women with some health conditions, such as obesity and gestational diabetes, may have an even higher risk of severe illness, similar to nonpregnant women with these conditions.
- Pregnant women who are Black or Hispanic have a higher rate of illness and death from COVID-19 than other pregnant women, but not because of biology. Black and Hispanic women are more likely to face social, health, and economic inequities that put them at greater risk of illness. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website to learn more about these inequities.
Reports also note the following for pregnant women with COVID-19:
- They may be more likely to have pregnancy complications than pregnant women without COVID-19. These complications may be related to high blood pressure, heavy postpartum bleeding, and other infections. This is especially true for pregnant women with moderate and severe illnesses.
- They may have an increased risk of preeclampsia (a serious blood pressure disorder) and coagulopathy (a blood clotting disorder).
How can COVID-19 affect a fetus or newborn?
Reports of COVID-19 infection during pregnancy have shown the following:
- There is an increased risk of preterm birth.
- Some data suggest a possible increased risk of stillbirth.
- COVID-19 may pass to the fetus during pregnancy, but this seems to be rare.
After birth, reports have shown the following:
- In babies born to women who had COVID-19 during pregnancy, there is an increased risk that the newborn will need care in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
- A newborn can get the virus if they are exposed to it.
Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes, you should get a COVID-19 vaccine. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (ACOG) strongly recommends vaccination if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to get pregnant. Read COVID-19 Vaccines: Answers From Ob-Gyns to learn more, and talk with your obstetrician-gynecologist (ob-gyn) if you have questions.
Key points to remember:
- Pregnant and postpartum women have a higher risk for more severe illness from COVID-19 than nonpregnant women.
- Stay healthy by getting a COVID-19 vaccine, following guidelines from health officials, and keeping your prenatal and postpartum care visits.
- If you are pregnant and have COVID-19, talk with your ob-gyn.
- Get a booster shot as soon as you are eligible to get one.
Resources for the Community
- Frequently asked questions and answers to COVID-19 Vaccine and Pregnancy
- COVID-19, Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Breastfeeding: Answers from OB-GYNS
- COVID-19, Gynecologist Visit, and Telehealth: Answers from OB-GYNS
- Pregnant and Recently Pregnant People At Increased Risk for Severe Illness from COVID-19
- Possible Side Effects After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine
- Myths and Facts about the COVID-19 Vaccine
- Toolkit for Pregnant People and New Parents
- Keep Your Baby Healthy and Safe Take These Steps During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Pregnant or Just Had a Baby? Take These Steps to Protect Yourself from COVID-19
Resources for Providers
- Vaccine Confidence Training
- CDC Publications
- COVID-19 Data Tracker: Pregnancy Data-CDC
- Talking with Patients about the COVID-19 Vaccination
Project W at the Arkansas Department of Health
The Arkansas Department of Health is partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help protect mothers and babies from the consequences of public health emergencies.
Our health department, in collaboration with CDC, is monitoring pregnant women who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 through the end of their pregnancy and monitoring their infants through at least 6 months of age. We report cases of COVID-19 to CDC as part of CDC’s Surveillance for Emerging Threats to Mothers and Babies Network (SET-NET) (https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/aboutus/pregnancy/emerging-threats.html). Data collected as part of these efforts can help direct public health action and inform clinical guidance for the care of affected pregnant women and their infants. You can find the latest data on CDC’s webpage on Birth and Infant Outcomes.
Please contact us at 501-280-4830 or email ADH.ProjectW@arkansas.gov with any questions.