Navigating pregnancy and COVID-19

How to protect yourself and your baby.

A new mother rests after giving birth in Baria, Gujarat, India.
01 September 2023
Reading time: 3 minutes

Pregnancy is a special time full of excitement and anticipation, but a positive COVID test can cause fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Read our expert tips on how to keep yourself and your baby safe.

Jump to:

Understanding my risk
How to protect myself
If I have COVID-19 will I pass it to my baby?
I have COVID-19. Can I safely breastfeed my baby?
Getting the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant
Getting the COVID-19 vaccine while breastfeeding
COVID-19 vaccines and fertility

I'm pregnant. Am I at higher risk from COVID-19?

Pregnant women do not seem to be at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. However, you are at higher risk of serious illness if you get COVID-19 while pregnant. You are also at higher risk of delivering your baby prematurely if you get COVID-19.

That’s why it’s important that you – and the people around you – take precautions to protect against COVID-19. Seek medical care early if you experience symptoms, such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing.

What should I do to protect myself from COVID-19 while pregnant?

Pregnant women should take the same precautions to avoid COVID-19 infection as other people. To help protect yourself and people around you:

  • Make sure you are up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccine doses, including booster doses, as recommended to you by your health authority.
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.

If I have COVID-19 will I pass it to my baby?

Transmission of the virus while your baby is in the womb or during birth is possible, but very rare. Most babies won't develop COVID-19 disease, and those who develop symptoms tend to recover quickly. 

The best thing you can do is to take all necessary precautions to prevent yourself from contracting COVID-19. If you’re pregnant or have just given birth and feel sick, then you should seek medical care promptly and follow instructions from your health care provider.

Babies can be infected after birth, so if you do get COVID-19, it is important for you and other caregivers to take all precautions to reduce the risks of passing the virus to the baby. 

If you have fever, cough or difficulty breathing, seek medical care early.

I have COVID-19. Can I safely breastfeed my baby?

Yes. Transmission of active COVID-19 (virus that can cause infection) through breast milk and breastfeeding has not been detected to date, so there is no reason to stop or avoid breastfeeding. The benefits of skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks of transmission and illness associated with COVID-19.

If you have or suspect you may have the COVID-19 virus, it is important to seek medical care early and follow instructions from your health care provider. Mothers well enough to breastfeed should take precautions, including wearing a medical mask if available, washing hands before and after contact, and cleaning/disinfecting surfaces. If you are too ill to breastfeed, express milk and give it to your child via a clean cup and/or spoon – all while following the same precautions.

>Read: Breastfeeding when sick

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m pregnant?

Yes, you can get vaccinated if you are pregnant. Although the overall risk of severe illness from COVID-19 remains low, pregnancy puts you at higher risk of severe illness compared to people who are not pregnant. You are also at higher risk of delivering your baby prematurely if you contract COVID-19.Many people around the world have been vaccinated against COVID-19 while pregnant or breastfeeding. No safety concerns have been identified for them or their babies.

Getting vaccinated while pregnant helps to protect your baby. WHO recommends a single booster dose during pregnancy – if more than 6 months have passed since the last dose, to help protect both you and your unborn child.

For more information about receiving a COVID-19 vaccines while pregnant, speak to your healthcare provider.

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m breastfeeding?

Yes, the COVID-19 vaccine is very safe and there is no risk to the mother or baby. None of the current COVID-19 vaccines have live virus in them, so there is no risk of you transmitting COVID-19 to your baby through your breastmilk from the vaccine. In fact, the antibodies that you have after vaccination may go through the breast milk and help protect your baby.

I plan to have a child. Can COVID-19 vaccines affect fertility?

No, you may have seen false claims on social media, but there is no evidence that any vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccines, can affect fertility in women or men. You should get vaccinated if you are currently trying to become pregnant.