What to do if you’re pregnant and get COVID-19


by Paula Smith, DO

Apr 29, 2020

Update: Possible symptoms of COVID-19 have been expanded to also include sore throat, weakness, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of smell or taste, and chills. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, please access the free screening questionnaire via MyBSWHealth.

Every day, we are learning more about the COVID-19 virus and how best to protect ourselves and those around us. At this time, we have limited pregnancy-specific data about COVID-19 but fortunately, the information we do have so far suggests that pregnant women are no more at risk of becoming sick or having more severe complications than non-pregnant adults.

However, as with all things in life, it’s best to be prepared. If you’re pregnant and you do get COVID-19 — despite all efforts to follow the proper safety measures — here are your next steps.

If you start experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, call your doctor for guidance. Symptoms of the COVID-19 virus can include fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, weakness, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting and loss of smell.

A free online screening questionnaire is available via the MyBSWHealth app and web portal. For your safety and convenience, we ask that you complete this prior to scheduling an appointment or walking into a clinic, urgent care or hospital emergency department.

Call 911 immediately if you develop any emergency symptoms, including:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Constant pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Any other symptoms that are severe or concerning

Labor and delivery

If you are in labor and have or think you may have COVID-19, call the hospital in advance so the staff can properly prepare. Many hospitals are contacting pregnant women with scheduled procedures, including inductions and cesarean sections, ahead of time to prescreen for symptoms and provide additional guidance for your upcoming stay.

Your doctor may recommend that you stay in a separate room from your newborn until the risk of spreading the infection is over. Although we realize this separation is not easy, it is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to protect your baby’s health.

At the hospital, you may also notice different procedures and policies for your delivery, including changes to the visitor policy and new screening procedures. Our hospitals have also employed infection control practices for hospitalized pregnant women who are positive for COVID-19 or suspected of having the virus, which may include a separate labor and delivery area. All of these precautions are put in place to help protect you, your baby and those around you.

Taking over-the-counter medications during pregnancy

According to the CDC, most people have mild illness and can recover comfortably and safely at home. If you’re pregnant and have mild symptoms, follow CDC recommendations to care for yourself and protect others in your household. Stay home, rest and manage any symptoms with over-the-counter (OTC) medications as recommended by your doctor.

You may be concerned about the use of over-the-counter medications during pregnancy. The following OTC medications may be safely used during pregnancy to relieve any uncomfortable symptoms. Be sure to consult your doctor before starting any new medication.

Antipyretics (fever reducer/prevention)

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is widely used during pregnancy. A pregnant woman should take no more than 3,000 mg in 24 hours.

Decongestants and expectorants (cold medications)

  • Pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine (Sudafed). Use caution if you have high blood pressure.
  • Guaifenesin (Mucinex)
  • Dextromethorphan (Robitussin)


  • Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton, Triaminic)
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
  • Loratadine (Claritin)
  • Fexofenadine (Allegra)

Antidiarrheal agents

  • Kaolin and pectin preparations (Kaopectate)
  • Loperamide (Imodium)

Throat discomfort

  • Sprays or lozenges containing benzocaine
  • Menthol and phenol (Chloraseptic)

Potential risks and complications

So far, COVID-19 has not been found in amniotic fluid or other maternal samples, and most newborns have not had evidence of infection. So, the chances of mother-to-child transmission of coronavirus during pregnancy appear to be small.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your baby is to follow all safety measures recommended by the CDC and your doctor.

However, a small number of babies have tested positive for the virus shortly after delivery. Although it is possible that the virus may have passed through the placenta to the baby, it is unclear if these babies acquired the virus before or after birth. A newborn is susceptible to person-to-person spread and precautions (including possible mother-baby separation) may be necessary to protect the newborn from acquiring the virus.

At the current time, there is no indication that having COVID-19 during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, birth defects or pregnancy complications. However, high fevers such as those sometimes seen with coronavirus and other infections during the first trimester of pregnancy have been associated with a higher risk for certain birth defects.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your baby is to follow all safety measures recommended by the CDC and your doctor.

If you do start exhibiting symptoms, don’t delay seeking care. If you develop a high fever due to any illness during pregnancy, promptly contact your doctor to determine the best way to lower your temperature and treat the illness.

If you’re worried about any risks to yourself or your baby, voice your concerns to your OB/GYN. Classes are also available online for a variety of breastfeeding, childbirth and newborn topics. We’re here to help you feel confident and prepared to safely welcome your little one into the world!

To learn more about COVID-19, visit BSWHealth.com.

About the Author

Dr. Paula Smith is a physician specializing in maternal fetal medicine on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - Hillcrest. She is also the hospital's maternity medicine director.

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