COVID-19 & Pregnancy - Alert Level 1

COVID-19 & Pregnancy - Alert Level 1

If you are pregnant or caring for a newborn baby, it's natural that you may be feeling increased anxiety and distress while New Zealand is working to stop the spread of COVID-19. Find out what you can do to help keep you and your baby safe. Find out what you can expect from your maternity care while you are pregnant and following the birth of your baby during Alert Level 1.

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Key points to remember about COVID-19 and pregnancy in Alert Level 1

  • recent evidence shows that pregnancy may increase the risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19, which can lead to complications with pregnancy
  • the evidence also shows that COVID-19 immunisation during pregnancy is very effective at preventing severe symptoms
  • it is rare for pregnant women to end up in hospital with severe COVID-19 symptoms if they've had both COVID-19 vaccine doses
  • immunisation safely and effectively protects pregnant women against COVID-19 and significantly reduces the risk of serious illness or harm to them

COVID-19 and pregnancy in Alert Level 2

COVID-19 and pregnancy in Alert Level 3

COVID-19 and pregnancy in Alert Level 4

Book for your COVID-19 immunisation now

If you are pregnant, or planning a pregnancy, it is important to have the COVID-19 vaccine.

Click on the Twitter image below to watch a video about COVID-19 immunisation and pregnancy.

Recent evidence shows that pregnancy may increase the risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19, which can lead to complications with pregnancy. Studies have shown having the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy is safe and significantly reduces the risk of serious illness or harm to pregnant women.  

If you're pregnant, you can get a COVID-19 vaccine at any stage of your pregnancy. You can book your immunisation now.

If you haven't made your appointment yet, you can book online at Book My Vaccine.

Book your vaccine online

You can also:

  • ask your GP clinic if they are providing the COVID vaccine yet
  • 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 worldwide who have already had their COVID-19 immunisation shows that there are no extra safety concerns with giving COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy.

Immunising 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, talk about them with your healthcare professional.

How can I reduce the risk of getting COVID-19 if I'm pregnant?

As well as immunisation against COVID-19, follow all the Alert Level rules to protect yourself. Follow mask wearing advice when out in the community.

Find out how to protect yourself and others against COVID-19

You may want to talk to your midwife or GP around your risk of getting COVID-19. If there is an increased risk of community transmission in the area where you live, you need to take extra steps to keep yourself safe.

If you're working, talk and agree with your employer a plan to make sure you can do your job safely. If you can't safely work at your workplace, and can't work from home, agree your leave and pay arrangements with your employer. It's important to agree about leave arrangements so you can still get Paid Parental Leave.

You can find some information about the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme on the Work and Income website.

Find out about the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme

You can find out about Paid Parental Leave from the Employment New Zealand website.

Find out about Paid Parental Leave

If I'm pregnant and have COVID-19, can I pass it on to my baby during pregnancy or birth?

The evidence so far shows that it is rare for pregnant women to pass on COVID-19 to their babies during pregnancy or birth (called 'vertical transmission').

If I'm pregnant and have COVID-19, how might it affect my baby?

For pregnant women with COVID-19, the evidence so far indicates:

  • there is no increased risk of miscarriage
  • there is an increased risk of some complications in newborn babies

Complications for newborn babies can include:

  • a slightly increased risk (about 1.5 times higher) of being born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
  • an increased risk (about 3 times higher) of needing to spend time in a hospital newborn care unit, or showing distress during delivery
  • an increased risk of stillbirth

COVID-19 immunisation during pregnancy reduces the risk of a baby's premature delivery, if it prevents COVID-19 infection in the baby's mother. 

Will the COVID-19 pandemic affect my pregnancy care?

At Alert Level 1 there is a very low risk of COVID-19 exposure in the community. Your maternity care should return to normal at this Alert Level.

Before any in-person check-ups, your midwife will check that you are well. If you are not well, your midwife will increase infection prevention precautions and may change the appointment to a later date. 

See the information on pregnancy, baby feeding and midwifery care on the New Zealand College of Midwives website.

What if I am pregnant and in quarantine/self-isolating?

If you are in quarantine/self-isolating due to possible exposure to, or you have symptoms of COVID-19, tell your midwife.

If you are less than 37 weeks pregnant

Your midwife (or GP or obstetrician) may delay visits until after the end of your quarantine/self-isolation period. Your midwife will only do this if she thinks it is safe for you and your baby. If you do need a visit, you will wear a surgical face mask while your midwife visits you. Your midwife will give you the mask. Your midwife may also wear some personal protective equipment (like a mask).

If you are more than 37 weeks pregnant

You will have visits as usual. You will wear a surgical face mask while your midwife visits you. Your midwife will give you the mask. Your midwife may also wear some personal protective equipment (like a mask).

Your midwife will talk with you about your options for labour and birth, and your care immediately after birth, in case you give birth during your quarantine/self-isolation period.

What if I develop symptoms of COVID-19 during quarantine/self-isolation?

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 during your quarantine/self-isolation period, you need to tell your midwife and your GP. You will need to have a test for COVID-19. Your care providers will treat you as positive for COVID-19 until you receive a negative test result.

What should I do if I'm pregnant and have symptoms of COVID-19?

If you have cold or flu symptoms, please call:

  • your doctor
  • iwi health provider, or
  • Healthline for free on 0800 358 5453

A health professional will let you know the next steps and whether you should get a test. If they tell you to get tested, you should stay home while you wait for your test.

Symptoms include:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature (at least 38 degrees Celsius)
  • shortness of breath
  • sore throat
  • sneezing and runny nose
  • temporary loss of smell

Make sure you let your midwife know if you become unwell.

What should I do if I'm pregnant and have a COVID-19 diagnosis?

If you have had a COVID-19 diagnosis, tell your midwife.

If you are less than 37 weeks pregnant

Your midwife may delay your normal visits until you are clear of COVID-19. Your midwife will only do this if she thinks it is safe for you and your baby. If you do need a visit, your midwife will talk with you and the hospital service about the best place for you to have your appointment. You will wear a surgical face mask during your appointment. Your midwife will give you the mask. Your midwife will wear full personal protection equipment (gloves, surgical mask, disposable apron or gown, and eye protection) during the visit.

If you are more than 37 weeks pregnant

You will have visits as usual and your midwife will talk with you and the hospital service about the best place for you to have your appointment. You will wear a surgical face mask during your appointment. Your midwife will give you the mask. Your midwife will wear full personal protection equipment (gloves, surgical mask, disposable apron or gown and eye protection) during the visit.

Your midwife will talk with you about your options for labour and birth, and your care immediately after birth, in case you give birth before you are clear of COVID-19.

What about care for my older children during labour and birth?

If you have other children, you will need someone to care for them when you go into labour. They will need to follow the rules for New Zealand's current Alert Level (see the 'Unite Against COVID-19' website).

Will maternity units be operating as normal?

Birthing units and birthing suites in NZ hospitals and in the community will remain open to provide essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you are pregnant and due to give birth over the next few weeks, check with your midwife about the service level available at your local maternity unit.

What happens straight after birth if I have COVID-19?

If you have COVID-19, staff in your maternity unit will talk with you about your options straight after birth. They will involve you in shared decision-making.

Can I touch and hold my newborn baby if I have COVID-19?

Yes. Close contact and early, exclusive breastfeeding will help your baby to thrive. Your care providers should support you to:

  • breastfeed safely - taking precautions
  • hold your newborn skin-to-skin
  • share a room with your baby

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) and Australian College of Midwives (ACM) issued a joint statement 7 September 2021. The statement followed a review which looked at risk factors for babies getting COVID-19. The joint statement continued to recommend close contact between a mother and her newborn immediately after birth.  

Early skin to skin contact, delayed cord clamping, rooming in with well, healthy term babies and breastfeeding are still recommended for new mothers with COVID-19 infection.

What precautions should I take if I'm breastfeeding and have COVID-19?

  • wash hands before and after contact with your baby (including feeding)
  • wear a surgical mask during breastfeeds
  • avoid coughing or sneezing on your baby
  • avoid kissing and touching your baby's face, and your own face
  • clean and disinfect any surfaces you touch

Read about COVID-19 and breastfeeding

What are the chances of my baby developing COVID-19?

Other countries (such as Italy and the UK) report that babies usually stay well if they stay with a mother who has mild COVID-19 symptoms and takes precautions around breastfeeding.

How long should I stay in the maternity unit?

If you have COVID-19, it's best you stay at least 48 hours after birth in the maternity unit. But, if you are well, you may be able to go home and receive care from your midwife.

Your stay in the maternity unit will be longer if:

  • you need close monitoring
  • your baby needs close monitoring
  • your baby is in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or specialist care baby unit (SCBU) for a short stay

What if I become quite unwell and need treatment for COVID-19?

If you become quite unwell and need to transfer to a medical area or intensive care unit for your own treatment, the best option is for your baby to be with a well family member. If you are well enough to do so, you can still express breastmilk for your baby.

What if I have COVID-19 and my baby has to go to a neonatal intensive care unit or specialist care baby unit?

Neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) or specialist care baby units (SCBUs) will be taking special precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is really important to protect babies and staff.

If you or your partner have COVID-19 and your baby needs to spend time in NICU or SCBU, you won't be able to visit your baby in the unit. NICU and SCBU staff understand this will be a very difficult time for you. They will talk with you about using your phone to keep in touch and to take photos and video clips.

If your baby was premature or needs to stay in NICU or SCBU for a longer time, you and your partner can go to the unit when:

  • it is more than 10 days since you (or your partner) became unwell, and
  • you (or your partner) have had no symptoms for at least 48 hours, and
  • 2 COVID-19 tests taken 24 hours apart are negative (testing will depend on advice from your local specialists)

If your baby was not premature and has been in NICU or SCBU for a shorter stay, they can come back to you (or another family member) once stable and before leaving hospital.

What can I expect from my care after my baby's birth during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Before any in-person check-ups, your midwife will check that you are well. If you are not well, your midwife may change the appointment to a later date. Or, she may organise the visit over the phone or by video call. 

What if I'm in quarantine/self-isolating after giving birth?

If you are in quarantine/self-isolating due to possible exposure to COVID-19 your midwife may delay visits until after the end of your quarantine/self-isolation period. Your midwife will only do this if she thinks it is safe for you and your baby.

If you do need a visit, you will wear a surgical face mask while your midwife visits you. Your midwife will give you the mask. Your midwife may also wear some personal protective equipment (like a mask).

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 during your quarantine/self-isolation period, call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 and follow their advice. Healthline is the best phone number to call first but you should also let your midwife know if you become unwell.

If you develop symptoms, your midwife will treat you as positive for COVID-19 until you receive a negative test result.

What should I do if I have a COVID-19 diagnosis after giving birth?

If you have had a COVID-19 diagnosis, tell your midwife. Your midwife may delay your normal visits until you are clear of COVID-19. Your midwife will only do this if she thinks it is safe for you and your baby.

If you do need a visit, you will wear a surgical face mask while your midwife visits you. Your midwife will give you the mask. Your midwife will wear full personal protection equipment (gloves, surgical mask, disposable apron or gown, and eye protection) during the visit.

Should my baby have their first immunisation at 6 weeks?

Yes. Immunisation on time is important for your baby. Delaying the first immunisation puts your baby at unnecessary risk of infections such as whooping cough and measles.

Find out about immunising children during COVID-19

Image of mother and child with text: Keep up with your child's free immunisations during all COVID-19 alert levels

Make sure your baby has their immunisations at:

  • 6 weeks
  • 3 months
  • 5 months
  • 15 months

GPs will have arrangements in place so that babies and children can have their immunisations safely during COVID-19. If some GP practices can't provide immunisations during COVID-19, they will refer families to another provider who can. You can call your GP ahead of visiting to find out about the arrangements they have in place.

The content on this page is supported by The New Zealand College of Midwives.

NZ College of Midwives logo

This page last reviewed 09 September 2021.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it