COVID-19, pregnancy and breastfeeding

Pregnant Patient and Doctor

Here’s what the CDC experts have to say

Pregnant women

What is the risk to pregnant women of getting COVID-19? If they become infected, will they be more sick than other people?

Based on available information, pregnant people seem to have the same risks from COVID-19 as adults who are not pregnant. 

However, pregnant women experience changes in their bodies that may increase their risk of some infections. With viruses from the same family as COVID-19 and other respiratory viral infections, such as the flu, women have had a higher risk of developing severe illness. It is always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illnesses. 

How can pregnant women protect themselves?

You can help stop the spread of COVID-19 by:

  • Covering your cough (using your elbow is a good technique).
  • Avoiding people who are sick.
  • Cleaning your hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

You can find additional information on preventing COVID-19 disease at cdc.gov/coronavirus.

Breastfeeding

This information is based on what is currently known about COVID-19 and the transmission of other viral respiratory infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will update this advice as more information becomes available. you can check for updates at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/pregnancy-breastfeeding.html.

Transmission of COVID-19 through breastmilk

Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how flu spreads. In limited studies on women with COVID-19 and another coronavirus infection, called severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV), the virus has not been detected in breastmilk. But we do not know whether mothers with COVID-19 can transmit the virus via breastmilk.

Outside of the immediate postpartum setting, CDC recommends that a mother with flu continue breastfeeding or feeding expressed breastmilk while taking precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant. 

If you have or think you have COVID-19

Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for most infants. However, much is unknown about COVID-19. Whether and how to start or continue breastfeeding should be determined by the mother, in coordination with her health care providers. A mother with confirmed COVID-19 or who has symptoms should take all possible precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant, including washing her hands before touching the infant and wearing a face mask, if possible, while feeding at the breast. If using a breast pump, the mother should wash her hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use. Use a dedicated breast pump. If possible, consider having someone who is well feed the expressed breastmilk to the infant. 

Source: National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Division of Viral Diseases. Information updated April 3, 2020.