Pregnancy and COVID-19: Giving Birth in a New Era

By Kathleen O’Brien


The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way so many of us around the world live our lives. With stress levels elevated across the board, one group who may be more anxious than they would have anticipated are those who are expecting a baby. Pregnant individuals have found themselves in a position they likely never envisioned a little over a month ago. With hospitals canceling many elective procedures and tests as well as reducing traffic through their buildings, many pregnant individuals face uncertainty about the impacts of this pandemic on their journey through pregnancy. In exploring news stories regarding pregnancy and COVID-19, one CTV News article describes a Kahnawake woman’s experience of being 24 weeks pregnant with two children at home [1]. At first the woman attributed her new symptoms to pregnancy, and initially tested negative for COVID-19, though subsequently did test positive and has now recovered [1].

Harrowing stories have emerged, such as a woman in the U.S. who ended up in the ICU with COVID-19 in a medically-induced coma while 33 weeks pregnant and whose baby was delivered after an induction of labor [2]. This mother is now able to see her new daughter via video while she awaits her negative tests [2]. A nurse who was pregnant in the U.K. and contracted COVID-19 passed away—her baby is alive following a cesarean section delivery [3]. The tragedy knows no bounds. On the research front, a study conducted by the University of Calgary has recruited over 1,200 pregnant women in Canada to study the impacts of COVID-19 on the health of these mothers and their future offspring [4]. Through online surveys, this study will assess stress levels amongst participants, and eventually outcomes in the babies over time as well [4]. With regards to COVID-19 and the postpartum period, this CBC article quoted the study’s leader, Dr. Catherine Lebel, as saying the following: “I think most of us who’ve had kids are used to lots of visitors after the baby is born, both for practical support and social support, and obviously people now are not going to be experiencing that in the same way” [4]. While studies such as Dr. Lebel’s will provide pregnant women with more information in the future, the uncertainty experienced by these women in the present is palpable [4]. The Government of Canada’s website states that there is currently no evidence that a developing child could be negatively affected by COVID-19” [5]. They also write that there is currently no evidence that suggests pregnant women are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19”. However, the website also states that “throughout pregnancy, women experience changes in their bodies that may increase the risk of other illnesses, such as viral respiratory infections” [5]. They list that precautions to be taken include physical distancing, avoiding public transportation, and exploring the options of virtual/telephone visits with care providers, among other things [5].

Additional details can be found on the Government’s Pregnancy, childbirth and caring for newborns: Advice for mothers (COVID-19) webpage [5].

  1. Rowe DJ Pregnant mother of two’s COVID-10 ordeal a lesson in patience and diligence. CTV News Montreal [Internet]. 2020 April 18 [cited 2020 April 19]; News [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/pregnant-mother-of-two-s-covid-19-ordeal-a-lesson-in-patience-and-diligence-1.4902187.
  2. Wray M. Pregnant woman with COVID-19 wakes from coma to meet new daughter. Global News [Internet]. 2020 April 15 [cited 2020 April 19]; Trending [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://globalnews.ca/news/6820869/women-gives-birth-coronavirus-coma/.
  3. Woodyatt A, McGann H. Pregnant nurse dies of Covid-19 but baby survives after emergency C-section. CNN [Internet]. 2020 April 16 [cited 2020 April 19]; World [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/16/uk/nurse-dies-coronavirus-baby-intl-scli-gbr/index.html.
  4. Edwardson L. University of Calgary researchers study impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on pregnant women. CBC News [Internet]. 2020 April 18 [cited 2020 April 19]; Calgary [about 5 screens]. Available from: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/covid-pregnant-university-calgary-study-1.5533548.
  5. Public Health Agency of Canada. Pregnancy, childbirth and caring for newborns: Advice for mothers (COVID-19). Government of Canada [Internet]. 2020 April 1 [cited 2020 April 19]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/pregnancy-advise-mothers.html.

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