Pregnancy and coronavirus: information for pregnant women

The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG) has released official guidelines for pregnant women and new parents during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Try not to worry. Follow the advice in these guidelines. We are updating this page as new information is published.

Last updated 16/12/2021

We're here to support you with the latest information about pregnancy and coronavirus. We understand that many of you will be very worried and have lots of questions.

Pick a topic from the list below to read more - this information is based on official guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the UK government.

We are updating this information as new guidance becomes available.

Find out more about the coronavirus vaccine and pregnancy.    

Find out more about planning a pregnancy and the coronavirus pandemic.

Select a topic from the list to read more:

What effect does coronavirus have on pregnant women?

Current evidence from the UK suggests that:

  • pregnant women are no more likely to get COVID-19 than other healthy adults, but there’s a higher risk of you getting seriously ill 
  • if you catch COVID-19 in your third trimester (from 28 weeks of pregnancy) the risk of getting seriously ill is higher. Sometimes this may lead to complications like preterm birth or stillbirth
  • about two-thirds of pregnant women with COVID-19 have no symptoms at all (also known as being ‘asymptomatic’)
  • most pregnant women who have symptoms of COVID-19 will have mild cold or flu-like symptoms.

If you are not vaccinated or fully vaccinated, you may choose to maintain social distancing in order to reduce the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19. You may especially want to do this if you are in the third trimester and when COVID-19 disease levels in your community are high. 

I am pregnant – what do I need to do?

The key advice for all pregnant women is:

    How can I lower my risk of catching coronavirus?

    To reduce your risk of catching coronavirus you should follow government guidance. For pregnant women and the rest of their households, this includes:

    • getting vaccinated
    • washing your hands regularly
    • using a tissue when you or anyone in your family coughs or sneezes, discard it and wash your hands
    • avoiding contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (these symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough)
    • avoiding use of public transport when possible
    • working from home when possible
    • avoiding gatherings in public spaces
    • avoiding gatherings with friends and family - keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet and social media
    • using telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.

    If you are pregnant, as a minimum, you should follow the same guidance on COVID-19 as everyone else (for example about testing or self-isolation). 

    Some pregnant women may wish to take extra precautions.

    If you are in your third trimester (more than 28 weeks’ pregnant) you should try to do social distancing and have as little physical contact with other people as possible. This is because the risk of getting seriously ill is higher. 

    What is the advice for Black and Asian women, or women from an ethnic minority?

    Women from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell and being admitted to hospital if you get COVID-19. It’s important that if you feel your symptoms are worsening, or if you are not getting better, to get medical help.

    Your maternity team may offer you extra appointments, or refer you to a doctor or specialist clinic if there are any concerns about your or your baby’s health.

    If you aren’t already, you should consider taking vitamin D tablets, which are recommended to all women during pregnancy. Women from BAME backgrounds, with melanin pigmented (dark) skin, may be particularly at risk of low levels of vitamin D and are advised to take a higher dose of vitamin D. Speak to your community midwife or maternity team if you have any questions about vitamin D.

    There have been some reports that people with low levels of vitamin D are at an increased risk of serious respiratory (breathing) complications if they develop COVID-19. However, there is not enough evidence to show that taking vitamin D prevents COVID-19 infection or works as a treatment.

    Are some pregnant women more at risk of becoming seriously unwell from coronavirus than others?

    Most women who have been admitted to hospital were in their third trimester of pregnancy. So it’s important to pay attention to social distancing and to try to avoid getting COVID-19 from 28 weeks of pregnancy.

    Studies have shown that if you are pregnant and become seriously unwell with COVID-19, your risk of giving birth prematurely is two to three times higher. In most cases this is because it was recommended that babies were born early for the benefit of the women’s health and to help them to recover.

    Some pregnant women are at a higher risk of developing serious illness, including:

    • pregnant women from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds
    • women over the age of 35
    • women who are overweight or obese
    • women who have pre-existing medical problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes
    • living in areas or households of increased socioeconomic deprivation. 

    Try to seek help early if you are concerned about your health or your baby's.

    What effect will COVID-19 have on my baby if I am diagnosed with the infection?

    Current evidence suggests:

    • if you have the virus, it is unlikely to cause problems with your baby’s development, and there have been no reports of this so far
    • if you have the virus in early pregnancy there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 infection increases the chance of a miscarriage 
    • Passing of COVID-19 from a woman to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth (vertical transmission) seems to be uncommon.

    How you give birth, feed your baby or if you stay with your baby after birth does not affect whether or not a newborn baby gets COVID-19. 

    In most of the reported cases of newborn babies developing COVID-19 very soon after birth, the babies remained well.

    Nearly one in five women with COVID-19 symptoms gave birth prematurely.

    If your baby is born before full term (before 37 weeks) they may have problems – the earlier in the pregnancy a baby is born, the more vulnerable they are.

    However, women who tested positive for COVID-19 but had no symptoms were not more likely to give birth prematurely. 

    The babies of women with COVID-19 were more likely to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), but almost all these babies did well.

    There was no statistically significant increase in stillbirth rate or infant death for babies born to women who had COVID-19. 

    A recent study from the UK compared 3,500 women who had COVID-19 at the time they gave birth to over 340,000 women who did not have COVID-19 at the time they gave birth. This study found that pregnant women who tested positive for COVID-19 at the time of birth were twice as likely to have a preterm birth, and their risk of stillbirth was twice as high, although the actual number of stillbirths remains low.

    I am less than 12 weeks pregnant and need medical attention. What do I do?

    We have information for you if you are under 12 weeks pregnant (in your first trimester) and you have a problem or concern that may require care from an early pregnancy assessment unit. Find out more.

    Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster?

    The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG) recommends vaccination and booster jabs in pregnancy. You can get vaccinated against COVID-19 if you're pregnant and aged 18 or over.

    Find out more about the coronavirus vaccine and pregnancy.    

    Should I have a flu vaccination?

    All pregnant women are encouraged to get a free flu vaccination. Being pregnant can change the way your body recovers from viral infections. Although most recover quickly, flu can be serious for a small number of people and their babies. The vaccination is safe at any stage in pregnancy. 

    Getting the flu vaccination is even more important during the coronavirus pandemic. Public Health England’s research shows that getting the flu and coronavirus at the same time can make you more seriously ill than if you are infected with one virus alone.

    What do I do if I think I have coronavirus?

    Symptoms of coronavirus include:

    • cough
    • high temperature
    • shortness of breath
    • headache
    • cold-like symptoms
    • loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

    If you think you may have symptoms of coronavirus, you should use the NHS 111 online service for information, or NHS 24 if in Scotland. You should stay at home for 10 days and follow follow guidance for self-isolating

    You should contact your maternity unit to inform them that you have symptoms suggestive of coronavirus, particularly if you have any routine appointments in the next 10 days. 

    Be aware that there are other possible causes of high temperature (fever) in pregnancy aside from COVID 19. In particular, these include urine infections (cystitis) and waters breaking. Find out more about pregnancy symptoms that you should always get checked out.

    What should I do if I test positive for COVID-19?

    If you test positive for COVID-19 outside of a hospital setting, you should contact your midwife or maternity team to make them aware of your diagnosis. If you have no symptoms or mild symptoms, you will be advised to recover at home. If you have more severe symptoms, you might be treated in hospital.

    If you feel your symptoms are worsening or if you are not getting better, you should contact your maternity care team, your GP, or use the NHS 111 online service / NHS 24 for further information and advice. In an emergency, call 999. Tell them if you believe you are at higher risk of complications.

    If you develop more severe symptoms or your recovery is delayed, this may be a sign that you are developing a more significant chest infection that requires specialised care. 

    This advice is important for all pregnant women, but particularly if you are at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell and being admitted to hospital. This includes women who are in their third trimester, from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background, over the age of 35, overweight or obese, or have a pre-existing medical problem, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

    If you have concerns about the well-being of yourself or your unborn baby during your illness, contact your midwife or, if out-of-hours, your maternity team. They will provide further advice, including whether you need to attend hospital.

    Will I be tested for coronavirus in hospital?

    To minimise the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals, you may be asked to have a test before you attend a scan or appointment, regardless of whether you have COVID-19 symptoms or not. You should visit the NHS website to book your test or call 119 to arrange testing. 

    Guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that individuals admitted for elective procedures should be offered testing prior to admission, following a period of self-isolation.

    For maternity units, there are particular practical concerns and the RCOG has developed more detailed information about this.

    If you have an elective caesarean birth or induction planned, you may be asked to follow a period of self-isolation and offered a test for coronavirus prior to admission. Your maternity team will discuss this with you.

    How does the coronavirus test work?

    Pregnant women are tested in the same way as anyone else. Currently, the test involves swabs being taken from your mouth and nose. You may also be asked to cough up sputum, which is a mixture of saliva and mucus.

    If you are awaiting test results whilst in hospital you may be treated as potentially infectious until the result is returned.

    If you have symptoms of coronavirus but have recently received a negative test result, your maternity team may still use caution when caring for you. Sometimes, the virus doesn’t show on the test results if you have been tested not long after you have become infected. You may be offered another test in a few days.

    What is an antibody test – will I have this?

    You may also have heard about antibody testing for coronavirus. This is a blood test that can show whether you have previously come into contact with the virus or not. It does this by detecting antibodies, which your body produces if you have had coronavirus. This is called an immune response.

    At present, this type of test is only being offered to NHS staff and some individuals across the UK. It is hoped the results of these tests will help us to understand how immunity to coronavirus works as we do not yet know how the antibodies develop and how long immunity lasts for. Therefore, RCOG currently recommends that results from antibody tests are not used when caring for pregnant women.

    Will my birth partner be tested for coronavirus?

    Following the roll out of lateral flow testing, a rapid form of COVID-19 testing, in many hospitals, it is possible that your birth partner may also be offered testing for COVID-19 when you attend a scan or appointment, or are admitted to hospital. Your maternity team will be able to advise you further.

    What if I don’t want to get tested for coronavirus?

    If you refuse testing for coronavirus prior to attending hospital for urgent or planned maternity care (including labour and birth), your care will be the same as any woman who is admitted to hospital and who does not yet have a test result.

    Why would I be asked to self-isolate?

    You may be advised to self-isolate because:

    • you have symptoms of coronavirus, such as a high temperature or new, continuous cough, or loss or change in your sense of smell or taste
    • you have tested positive for coronavirus and you’ve been advised to recover at home
    • you have an elective caesarean birth or induction planned and you have been asked to self-isolate before going to hospital
    • you have planned a homebirth and have been asked to self-isolate 
    • you have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

    What should I do if I’m asked to self-isolate?

    Pregnant women who have been advised to self-isolate should stay indoors and avoid contact with others for 10 days. If you live with other people, they should stay at home for at least 10 days, to avoid spreading the infection outside the home.

    The NHS guidance on self-isolation currently recommends people should:

    • not go to school, work, NHS settings or public areas
    • not use public transport or use taxis
    • stay at home and not allow visitors - except for people providing essential care
    • open windows to ventilate rooms
    • do not go out to get food and medicine – order it online or by phone, or ask someone to bring it to your home
    • separate themselves from other members of their household as far as possible, using their own towels, crockery and utensils and eating at different times
    • do not go out to exercise – exercise at home or in your garden, if you have one
    • use friends, family or delivery services to run errands, but advise them to leave items outside.

    You may want to do online fitness routines to keep active, such as pregnancy yoga or pilates. Keeping mobile and hydrated, even if you are self-isolating, is important to reduce the risk of blood clots in pregnancy. Find out more about staying active during the coronavirus pandemic.

    What happens if I go into labour during my self-isolation period?

    If you go into labour during self-isolation, you should call your maternity unit for advice, and tell them that you have suspected or confirmed coronavirus infection.

    If you have mild symptoms, you will be encouraged to remain at home (self-isolating) in early labour, as you would normally.

    Your maternity team have been advised on ways to ensure that you and your baby receive safe and high quality care, facilitating and respecting your birth choices as closely as possible.

    When you and your maternity team decide that you need to attend the maternity unit, general recommendations about hospital attendance will apply:

    • You will be advised to attend hospital via private transport where possible, or call 111/999 for advice, as appropriate
    • You will be met at the maternity unit entrance and may be provided with a face mask, which you will need to wear until you are isolated in a suitable room.

    What do I do if I feel unwell or I am worried about my baby during self-isolation?

    If you have concerns about the well-being of yourself or your unborn baby during your self-isolation period, contact your midwife or, if out-of-hours, your maternity unit. They will provide further advice, including whether you need to attend hospital.

    If you are advised to go to the maternity unit or hospital, you will be asked to travel by private transport, or arranged hospital transport and to alert the maternity unit reception once on site before going into the hospital. You will have to wear a mask or face covering.

    What is the travel advice if I am pregnant?

    If you are in the UK, you should follow the advice given by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which is being regularly updated in line with the evolving situation.

    Make sure you have insurance arrangements in place before travelling. You should also check that your travel insurance will provide cover for birth and care of your newborn baby if you give birth while abroad.

    What is the advice for pregnant women with older children attending school/nursery/external childcare?

    Some pregnant women with older children are concerned about possible exposure to the virus and what this means for them and their baby. Tommy’s midwife Sophie explains the latest guidance.

    What are my rights when it comes to work and benefits?

    Existing regulations on your rights during pregnancy and maternity leave still apply during the pandemic and you are protected against discrimination. Maternity Action have put together some frequently asked questions on rights at work and benefits during pregnancy and maternity leave during the pandemic.  

    This includes information about health and safety adjustments at work, furlough, redundancy and benefits. They've also produced a model letter that you can use to write to your employer to set out your health and safety rights and ask for homeworking, suspension on full pay or furlough. 

    How can I protect my mental wellbeing during the pandemic?

    In times like these, it can be difficult to keep anxiety under control. But try to remember that anxiety is a normal response to a threatening situation, so it is understandable that so many people are feeling like this right now. However, there are things that can help you to feel more in control. Find out more.

    How will the coronavirus pandemic affect my routine appointments before and after birth?

    You will be told about any changes by your local maternity service. Antenatal and postnatal care is essential and you should attend, but try to stick to social distancing measures.

    Your local maternity team may reduce routine appointments, provide more home visits or deliver some care and support over the phone or by video to reduce the number of times you need to travel and attend hospital/clinics. 

    Why are changes to antenatal and postnatal care necessary during the coronavirus pandemic?

    We know that it may be a particularly stressful and anxious time if you are pregnant or have recently given birth. Some changes to care allow healthcare professionals to care for you and protect you from coronavirus, while also ensuring we protect NHS staff and services.

    These changes will help them to:

    • reduce the number of people coming into hospitals where they may come into contact with other people and spread the virus
    • ensure staff are not overwhelmed and stretched too far by the additional strain on services. This might be due to staff sickness and self-isolation as well as the higher numbers of patients needing care and overnight hospital stays due to coronavirus.

    Who should I contact about my antenatal and postnatal care appointments?

    If you have been allocated a local health continuity team or a named community midwife:

    Continue to contact your continuity team or community midwife by telephone to discuss any questions or concerns you might have and to check on arrangements for all scheduled and future appointments.

    If you have not been allocated a local health continuity team or a named community midwife:

    Contact your GP surgery or local maternity unit to be connected to an appropriate continuity team or named community midwife. You can discuss any questions or concerns you might have, and check on any scheduled and future appointments.

    Can I still attend my antenatal and postnatal care appointments?

    Your antenatal and postnatal appointments are an important part of your maternity care to provide checks and screening on your health and your baby’s health.

    A member of the maternity team looking after you may call you before your appointment, or carry out an assessment at entrance of the clinic/hospital, or both, to check whether you have any symptoms of coronavirus, or if you meet the ‘stay at home’ guidance.

    If you are advised to attend an appointment by your local maternity team, this is because the need for the appointment (to reduce the risk of complications for you and your baby) is greater than your risk of being exposed to coronavirus.

    If you are well, you should be able to attend your appointments. You may be asked to attend alone to protect your household from the risk of coronavirus. You will be told about this by your local maternity service.

    If you are asked to attend your antenatal appointments alone, you should be advised where possible to have a discussion with your partner, or other supportive companion, about any questions they would like you to ask your maternity team on their behalf.

    If you are currently self-isolating with suspected or confirmed symptoms of coronavirus, and you have an appointment scheduled in the coming days, you should telephone your continuity team or community midwife, or local maternity unit, to let them know.

    Your upcoming appointment will be reviewed by the maternity team looking after you and your baby. You will then be advised whether your appointment is urgent and a home appointment is required, or whether your appointment can be safely delayed.

    How many antenatal appointments will I have?

    You will have at least 6 face-to-face antenatal appointments in total. Where possible, essential scans and tests and routine antenatal care will be offered within a single appointment.

    This is to prevent multiple journeys and visits to clinics/hospital, and will involve contact with as few staff as possible to prevent the spread of coronavirus to you, your family and other patients.

    This may mean that your initial ‘booking in’ appointment will take place at the same time as your 12-week scan. You should be asked about your mental health at every appointment, whether in person or via phone/video.

    In the third trimester, you should be asked about your baby’s movements at every appointment, whether in person or via phone/video. Do not wait until your next appointment to seek advice if you are worried about your baby’s movements. Contact your midwife or maternity unit immediately if you think your baby’s movements have slowed down, stopped or changed.

    All pregnant women should be provided with information about group B streptococcus (GBS) in pregnancy and newborn babies.

    Sometimes, you may need additional antenatal appointments and medical care. This will depend on your individual medical needs. These appointments may be carried out over the phone or via video, provided a physical examination or test is not required. This will enable partners and other family/household members to join you for support and allow social distancing to protect you and your baby from coronavirus.

    This may include:

    • appointments with a specialist doctor
    • extra blood tests
    • support for your mental health
    • discussion of plans for birth
    • local provision of antenatal/parent education classes, infant feeding support and information on safe sleeping, pelvic floor exercises and birth choices.

    Maternity care is still essential during the coronavirus pandemic and services are still running. If you have any concerns about your pregnancy call your GP, midwife, nearest early pregnancy unit or maternity unit as soon as possible.

    Should I go into hospital for my scans?

    Scans are an essential part of pregnancy care and it is important that you continue to attend them for your and your baby’s well-being.

    Will I be able to bring someone with me to scans?

    Current guidance says that pregnant women should be supported to have one person with them “at all stages of their maternity journey” and come along to appointments providing they do not have COVID-19 symptoms. Separate advice has been published by the NHS in each nation (ScotlandWales and Northern Ireland). 

    This guidance may vary between Trusts and other NHS bodies. You can check with your maternity unit for more information about their policy on visitors. Any visitors should follow guidance in hospitals about social distancing, wearing a face covering and regular handwashing.

    Visitor restrictions may need to put in place again if there is an increased risk in local transmission. 

    If you are unable to bring someone with you to your scan, you could save a short 10–30-second video clip of the baby at the end of the dating scan and/or anomaly scan to show partners, friends or family.

    In the current pandemic situation, when women attend alone, we don't recommend video calling anyone during your scans. While we understand this may be disappointing, virtual attendance can be distracting to the sonographer and prevent them from doing their job effectively.

    We understand it may be upsetting if you are asked to come alone to a scan, but this measure has been put in place to protect maternity staff, other women and babies, and you and your family from the risk of infection.

    Who should care for my other children when I go into hospital for labour and birth, or a check-up during pregnancy?

    Government guidelines recommend that social distancing should be followed by everybody in the UK wherever possible.

    If you need to attend a routine clinic appointment, check on the well-being of you or your baby or attend the maternity unit to give birth to your baby, your other children must not go with you into the maternity unit. 

    If this means that there is nobody available at home to care for your other children, then you'll need to find another close family member or friend to look after them.

    It's a good idea to discuss this with the chosen person in advance so they can make any necessary arrangements. When choosing another person to care for your children in this situation, please do not ask somebody who is vulnerable to the severe effects of coronavirus (people over the age of 70, other pregnant women or individuals with significant medical problems). 

    Also, it's a good idea to make a back-up plan, in the case the person you had planned to ask is self-isolating because either they, or someone else in their home, are unwell with coronavirus when you need them.

    Will I need to wear a facemask when I attend hospital for antenatal appointments, or to have my baby?

    To reduce transmission of coronavirus in hospitals, face masks and coverings must be worn by all NHS hospital staff and visitors in England. All visitors and outpatients, including pregnant women attending antenatal appointments or scans, must wear face coverings at all times to protect other women and patients, and staff from coronavirus.

    At the moment, hospital inpatients, including women giving birth, are not required to wear masks.

    Can having coronavirus affect where and how I give birth?

    Find out more about more about your childbirth choices during the coronavirus pandemic.

    Is there increased risk to me or my baby after birth?

    There is no evidence that women who have recently had a baby and are otherwise well are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 or of becoming seriously unwell.

     A woman who has been pregnant recently is considered as having a normal immune system if she has no other forms of infection or underlying illness.

    Children, including newborns, do not appear to be at high risk of becoming seriously unwell with the virus. 

    However, close observation of hygiene, including washing hands regularly, is important amongst all members of your household. They should be careful when holding your baby if they have symptoms suggestive of any illness.

    It is important that your baby is feeding well and gaining weight, and if you have any concerns, please contact your midwife. Do not avoid seeking medical advice if you are worried about your baby’s health. Seek medical advice if your baby has a fever, seems very tired, highly irritable, problems feeding or any other symptoms you may have concerns about.

    Find out more about bringing your baby home during the pandemic.

    Further information

    This information is based on the official RCOG guidelines and NHS guidance.

    Our Tommy's midwives are here to support you. We are working hard to provide the best support and information we can during a time of extra anxiety and worry for pregnant women and their families.

    Watch out for updates and contact us on the following platforms: