COVID-19 positive – self-isolating when you are pregnant

You may need to isolate at home during your pregnancy if you, or one of your whānau, tests positive for COVID-19. This page will give you some advice on what might happen, and what you can do to keep yourself and your baby well.

If you are required to self-isolate while you are pregnant, it may seem overwhelming but try and stay calm and focus on doing what is best for you and your baby.

  • Remember, you need to stay at home and not have contact with others to stop the spread of the virus.
  • This means not having visitors come to your home and trying to keep away from anyone in your home who has COVID-19, or keeping them away from you if you have it.
Key information 
  • Get your booster: If you are pregnant, aged 18 years and older, it is recommended you receive a booster of the Pfizer vaccine to help protect you and your baby against the effects of COVID-19. The booster can be given at any stage of pregnancy. If you are unwell with COVID, you will need to delay your vaccine. Talk to your lead maternity carer.
  • Be aware of your symptoms: Do not assume tiredness (fatigue), shortness of breath, and feeling sick (nausea) are pregnancy-related. These could be symptoms of COVID. 

On this page you can find the following information:

How can I look after myself when self-isolating? 

Even though you are having to isolate, it is important for you to keep doing things that keep you and your baby healthy. These include eating and drinking healthily, exercising, looking after your mental health and getting your usual check-ups. You also need to look out for any signs that you might have become infected with COVID-19.

Getting up and dressed and walking around the house as much as possible will help you sleep better, even when the days are lacking their usual structure. You are able to walk around your neighbourhood without wearing a mask, but keep your distance from other people. Do not go to a gym or a swimming pool.

Keep eating healthily and drinking plenty of fluid

Make sure you continue to eat a balanced diet. Although you might be relying on things from your store cupboard more often, try to include some fresh fruit and vegetables in your meals. Frozen or canned are fine too.

Ask friends, neighbours or whānau from outside your household to pick up supplies for you and leave them at your door.

Water is the best thing you can drink so make sure you drink enough to stay well hydrated. Avoid fizzy drinks, alcohol and smoking.

Keep doing some exercise

If you are feeling well enough, and don't have COVID-19, there are many reasons to exercise when you’re pregnant. Exercise can:

  • help you maintain a healthy weight
  • improve your mood
  • help with high blood pressure
  • reduce the chance of your baby having a low birthweight
  • help reduce swelling in your legs and feet
  • help control gestational diabetes if you have it.

You can walk around your garden and local neighbourhood as long as you keep well away from other people so they don’t get infected. If you would prefer not to go outside, you could walk up and down your hallway or do some yoga or stretching exercises.

Image source: canva

Get plenty of rest

Sleep is important for you and your baby and you will find that you can cope better if you are well rested. If you have trouble sleeping, practicing relaxation techniques, such as yoga, before bed may help you to get to sleep and stay asleep. They can also help with anxiety.

Look after yourself and your mental health

Being pregnant can be stressful enough, without having to think about COVID as well! Make sure you stay in touch with friends and whānau, by phone/text conversations or Skype since you can't see them in person. Try to stay involved in activities (books, movies, quizzes, hobbies) to pass the time as well as to distract yourself from worrying.  Although you might want to stay informed about what is happening in the news, limit how much you read if it adds to your concerns. If you find you are feeling low, anxious or like you're not coping, talk to your LMC. 

Keep getting your check-ups

It is important that you keep getting the check-ups you need for yourself and your baby. Clinical support will remain available to you. Where possible appointments will be done via video or by phone but if you need to be seen you will be.  Face-to-face appointment times will be shorter than usual (<15 minutes where possible) and will only take place if they are needed.

Look out for signs that you might have COVID-19

One of the problems in deciding whether or not you have been infected with COVID-19 is that some of the symptoms, like fatigue (extra tiredness), shortness of breath and nausea can be a normal part of pregnancy. If you think you might be getting these symptoms for the first time, or if they are getting worse, call Healthline 0800 358 5453. Tell them that you are isolating at home and pregnant, and follow their advice. Also let your lead maternity carer (LMC) or midwife know.

If at any point you are worried about your own well-being or that of your unborn baby, don't hesitate to call your lead maternity carer (midwife or doctor) for advice. If it is an emergency call 111. 

What should I do if I get COVID-19? 

Contact your lead maternity carer

If you have had a positive test result and you are isolating at home, it is really important that you let your LMC know. They have been given guidance on what should happen for you depending on how many weeks pregnant you are and the types of symptoms you are experiencing.

Monitor your symptoms

It is helpful to keep a symptom diary so you can record how you are doing with COVID-19 symptoms. You may be given a pulse oximeter to check your oxygen levels and heart rate. These readings can be recorded in your diary as well.

Read about how to manage COVID-19 symptoms and breathing positions that can help if you are finding it hard to breathe – avoid lying on your tummy/puku if you are more than 28 weeks pregnant.

If you need to take pain relief for a headache, or body aches and pains, talk to your midwife or doctor about what it is best to take.

(Health Navigator NZ, in partnership with Ministry of Health, 2022)

View transcript

How do I know if I need to get urgent help?

Things to look out for are:

  • your baby moving less than usual or not at all
  • a change in your baby's usual pattern of movements
  • bleeding from your vagina (birth canal)
  • a headache that doesn't go away
  • having shortness of breath when resting or lying down
  • feeling like you can't cope with your symptoms at home 
  • a temperature higher than 38 degrees
  • feeling really tired
  • feeling very anxious or worried 
  • if you feel unsafe at any time.

Get in touch with your LMC if you are experiencing any of these things. 

What will happen with my maternity care?

Because you have COVID-19 you will be referred to an obstetrics team for an assessment, probably by telehealth, to decide on a plan of care. This will include your primary care health provider or LMC as well. Depending on where you are in your pregnancy, and how well you are managing with any symptoms, you may continue to be cared for by your lead maternity carer (LMC). Otherwise you may be referred to an obstetrics team for your pregnancy care until you recover from COVID-19.  If any extra care is needed it will be organised through discussions between your LMC, the obstetrics team and yourself.

Will my baby be affected if I have COVID-19 while I'm pregnant?

Evidence from overseas suggests that COVID-19 does not cause miscarriages or abnormalities, but it can increase the chance that your baby could be born early (before 37 weeks) and increases the risk of stillbirth. 

It is rare for babies to get COVID-19 from their mother during the pregnancy or during the birth process. Babies that have got it have mostly had no symptoms, or mild symptoms.

What happens if I go into labour while I am isolating at home?

If you go into labour, or think you might be, call your LMC and let them know. Tell them about your circumstances (isolating because you have COVID-19 or because somebody in your household has it) if they don't already know. They will advise you on what to do. If you don't have the virus, or your symptoms are mild, you will probably be able to stay at home during the first part of your labour, just as you normally would.

Once the baby is born there is no reason why you can't breastfeed, cuddle and care for your baby as normal, and share a room with your baby. There is no evidence that the virus can be passed on to your baby through your breast milk. However it will be important to be especially careful with hygiene (clean habits):

  • Wash your hands well before touching your baby, breast pump or feeding bottles.
  • Wear a mask while you are feeding and holding your baby.
  • Clean and sterilise bottles and breast pump thoroughly.
  • Try not to sneeze or cough on your baby.
  • Don't kiss or touch your baby's face, or touch your own.   

Support

Pregnancy and birth during covid support group Aotearoa Facebook page

Learn more

COVID-19 and pregnancy Kids Health, NZ

References

Pregnancy and coronavirus – information for pregnant women Tommy's Pregnancy Hub, UK
COVID-19 – pregnant people and those who have recently given birth Ministry of Health, NZ, 2022
COVID-19 – maternity Ministry of Health, NZ, 2022 
Care framework for pregnant women and people isolating in the community for COVID-19 Ministry of Health, NZ, 2022
Info for pregnant women RANZCOG, Australia & NZ, 2021
Pregnancy and coronavirus NHS, UK, 2022
Coronavirus infection and pregnancy RCOG, UK, 2022
Coronavirus – how to stay healthy when you're pregnant and self-isolating NCT, UK

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team.