COVID-19 and pregnancy

Being pregnant (hapū) during the COVID-19 pandemic has made many people anxious about their own health and that of their unborn or newborn baby. Here is some information to help you through this time.

Doctor Nikki Turner on pregnancy, COVID-19 and the vaccine

(Ministry of Health, NZ, 2021)

Book your COVID-19 vaccination now

If you are pregnant (hapū), or planning a pregnancy, it is important to have the COVID-19 vaccine. Studies have shown this is safe and better for you and your baby. If you get COVID-19 while you’re pregnant you can become very sick.

If you’re pregnant, you can get a COVID-19 vaccine at any stage of your pregnancy. 

If you haven't made your appointments yet, you can:

  • ask your GP clinic if they are providing the COVID-19 vaccine 
  • book online at Book My Vaccine
  • book by phone – call the COVID Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 (8am to 8pm, 7 days a week).

Data from the large number of pregnant people already vaccinated globally shows that there are no additional safety concerns with giving COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccinating during pregnancy may also help protect your baby. There is evidence that infants can get antibodies to the virus through cord blood and breast milk.

If you have any questions or concerns, discuss them with your health professional. Read more about COVID-19 vaccination, pregnancy, lactation and breastfeeding from the Immunisation Advisory Centre. Karawhiua also has answers to FAQs about the COVID-19 vaccine, especially for Māori. 

Get the usual vaccinations

You should also get vaccinated against the flu and whooping cough (pertussis) because the risk of these is just as high as ever. Getting vaccinated during pregnancy protects you and your newborn baby against these serious infections. 

You can get the influenza vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine at any stage of pregnancy and whooping cough vaccine from 16 weeks of pregnancy. They can be given at the same time or separately. Read more about pregnancy and immunisations.

It is crucial that babies and infants get their regular vaccinations as outlined in the National Immunisation Programme. These are usually given at 6 weeks, 3 months, 5 months and 15 months. These vaccinations protect against a range of diseases, including whooping cough and measles, the risk of which is as high as ever. Read more about childhood immunisation

Follow advice to prevent COVID-19 

Practising good hand and cough hygiene and following the current alert level advice are the best ways to protect you and your baby from COVID-19. Also keep looking after yourself during your pregnancy, both physically and mentally. Read more about pregnancy and wellbeing

Make contact early 

Contact your lead maternity carer (LMC) or midwife early in your pregnancy, so you can be assessed for risk factors and referred for other appointments, if needed.

Continue to have regular check-ups

Keep getting regular check-ups during your pregnancy, to monitor the health of yourself and your baby. Talk to your LMC as to how this will be done at different levels. They may recommend less frequent visits if you and your baby are healthy, or they might be able to offer telehealth consultations (by video call) for some of your appointments. Read more about telehealth.

Be assured that hospitals are safe 

If you are asked to go to hospital for care or assessment, be reassured that it is safe to do so at any alert level of the COVID-19 response. 

  • Check with your LMC that they have safe sleep devices available in the maternity unit if you need one. 
  • When you are discharged from hospital, make sure your maternity team has given you advice on how to tell if you are getting sick, who to contact if you do get sick and how to contact them.

Breastfeed your baby

It's safe to breastfeed your baby – there is no evidence of transmission of the COVID-19 virus in breast milk. Exclusive breastfeeding offers the best protection for babies, so if your baby is less than 6 months old, aim to only breastfeed. It is also safe to have the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine (Comirnaty) while you are breastfeeding.

When you're vaccinated, this can also provide some protection against COVID-19 for your baby through your breastmilk.

Trying for a baby

If you’re planning a pregnancy, you can receive the Pfizer vaccine (Comirnaty). The Pfizer vaccine will not affect your genes or fertility. The mRNA from the vaccine does not enter the nucleus of any cells, which is where your DNA is.

Use reliable information sources

Because COVID-19 is a new disease, information about its effects on pregnancy and breastfeeding is still evolving. There is much information on the internet, but not all sources are reliable. 

The following are trustworthy organisations that are constantly reviewing the current situation and updating their websites with information about pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have any questions, talk to your LMC.

Source Description

Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG)

RANZCOG is dedicated to the establishment of high standards of practice in obstetrics and gynaecology and women’s health in New Zealand and Australia. See advice and information 

Advice and frequently asked questions for pregnant women and their families updated 24 August 2021

Ministry of Health, NZ 

COVID-19 – Breastfeeding advice for pregnant women, or those who have recently given birth.

World Health Organization (WHO) 

The WHO has created a list of common question and answers on COVID-19, pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. See Q&A on COVID-19, pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), UK

The RCOG has created a list of common question and answers on coronavirus infection and pregnancy.

References

  1. COVID-19: Pregnancy and breastfeeding – vaccine advice Ministry of Health, NZ
  2. COVID-19 vaccination in pregnant and breastfeeding women and those planning pregnancy The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG)
  3. Maternity support for women during Covid-19 Health Quality & Safety Commission, NZ
  4. COVID-19 – who can get a vaccine? Ministry of Health, NZ, 2021
  5. COVID-19 Comirnaty™ (Pfizer/BioNTech) vaccination and pregnancy The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
  6. UAB hospital leaders alarmed over number of pregnant COVID-19 patients in ICU Beckers Hospital Review 20 August 2021
  7. COVID-19 vaccine safety in pregnancy and other special circumstances The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
  8. COVID-19 vaccination, pregnancy and lactation The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Dr Janine Bycroft, GP, Auckland