Advice on the novel coronavirus for pregnant women

pregnant woman
3 February 2020 | Pregnancy and newborns

The Royal Women’s Hospital is closely monitoring the novel coronavirus (COVID-2019) and is taking all advised precautions for its patients, visitors and staff. In addition to this, Professor Mark Umstad, Director of Maternity Services at the Women’s, is giving the following advice to pregnant women.

Please note: as the Australia’s Chief Medical Officer receives more information on this virus, medical advice can be updated. Any changes will be reflected on this page.

“While there is limited information on the novel coronavirus currently, we do know that pregnant women especially should be vigilant when it comes to reducing the risk of infections,” said Professor Mark Umstad.

“When a woman is pregnant, her immune system changes, making her more susceptible to respiratory infections - which is why it is also important to vaccinate against whooping cough and influenza.

“Although there is no vaccination for the novel coronavirus, there are established precautions that pregnant women, and those around her, can take:

  • Practice good hand hygiene – wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, particularly after going to the toilet and before eating food. Alcohol based hand rub is an acceptable alternative;
  • cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing or cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow, and encourage others to do the same. Make sure you put the tissue into a bin and then wash your hands afterwards;
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands; and
  • where possible, keep one metre away from people who have a respiratory illness.

"Although very little is known about the effects of this coronavirus, a small study of nine pregnant women with confirmed COVID-2019 in Wuhan, China, found no evidence that the virus leads to severe adverse outcomes for newborn infants, or that it can be passed to the child while in the womb. 

"Among the women, who were all late in their pregnancies giving birth by caesarean section, were two cases of fetal distress but all nine babies were delivered alive and tested negative to COVID-2019. But we must remember this study is very small and done over a very short period of time."

Source: The Lancet

As of 1 February 2020, the case definition for a person suspected to have contracted novel coronavirus has been expanded.

  • Any person who has an acute respiratory infection and has been in mainland China or has had close contact with a confirmed case of novel coronavirus in the 14 days prior to onset of illness should be tested for the infection.
  • As a precaution, people who have been in mainland China (excluding Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) are advised to self-isolate if they were in mainland China on or after 1 February 2020, when the risk of human to human transmission across many provinces of mainland China was identified to have significantly increased.
  • If a person who has been in mainland China on or after 1 February 2020 begins to feel unwell and develop shortness of breath, a cough or respiratory illness during the 14 days since they were last in mainland China, they should seek medical attention. Call ahead to your GP or emergency department and mention your travel to mainland China.
  • The Australian Government has announced travel restrictions and has advised that visitors from mainland China who are not Australian citizens or permanent residents or their dependents will not be allowed entry into Australia. The Australian Government has also recommended that Australians should not travel to mainland China at the current time.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398 for anyone with further questions.

“Everyone should remain alert, but they should not be alarmed. If you have not travelled to affected areas overseas or have not been in direct contact with anyone who has visited the affected areas overseas, there is very little risk of infection,” says Professor Mark Umstad.

General public information on the novel coronavirus can be found on the Department for Health and Human Services website

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