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What we currently know about being pregnant during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Kathy Fray 3 min read
Thursday, May 07, 2020

Prenatal scans and check-ups are completely different in this coronavirus landscape. Here's what you can expect.

Editor's note: The following are best practice guidelines shared with medical professionals and are meant to give you a general overview of what you can expect. Actual policies will vary between countries, states, cities and even hospitals. The COVID-19 situation is also ever-evolving, so be sure to check with your doctor and hospital to understand the situation unique to your circumstances.

It is important to remember that it's physiologically normal to be immunocompromised when you are pregnant—it is part of how your body doesn't reject growing your baby. Of course, this is also the reason why there are so many precautions surrounding pregnant women. The following are recommended levels of contact, but women with medical complexities or obstetric complications may need additional face-to-face care-plan appointments.

Read on also to find out what to expect during an ultrasound scan and after you give birth.

First trimester (under 12 weeks pregnant)

Most information will be shared over one phone/video call, with a short face-to-face meeting for physical assessment of baseline blood pressure, urine analysis, height, weight and initial bloods.

Second trimester 

12–16 weeks: Phone/video check-up.

16–20 weeks: Phone/video check-up and anatomy ultrasound scan.

20–24 weeks: Face-to-face to check blood pressure, fetal wellbeing and urine analysis.

24–26 weeks: Phone/video check-up.

Week 28: Face-to-face to check blood pressure, fetal wellbeing, urine analysis and repeat bloods.

Third trimester

30–32 weeks: Phone/video check-up.

32–34 weeks: Face-to-face to check blood pressure, fetal wellbeing and urine analysis. (From this time onwards, particular vigilance is always given to exclude pre-eclampsia and fetal growth concerns.)

34–36 weeks: Phone/video check-up.

37–40 weeks: Weekly contact with at least a couple of face-to-face physical assessments. Repeat bloods.

40–42 weeks: Weekly face-to-face physical assessments.

What are the guidelines surrounding ultrasound scans?

Ultrasound scans are part and parcel of being pregnant, but the practice has changed due to COVID-19. During the pandemic crisis, you can expect:

  • Women-only at all scans. Extra attendees are only allowed for emotional support during a suspected miscarriage confirmation scan.
  • First trimester Down syndrome screen scans should ideally take only around 15 minutes.
  • Dating scans to be limited to 10 minutes and generally only performed if you are planning to decline the first trimester Down syndrome screen scan.
  • Second trimester anatomy scans to ideally take only 20 minutes (this means no non-essential anatomical scanning. Expect to take longer to achieve better facial images or confirmation of baby's gender).
  • Any follow-ups for partially incomplete anatomy scans can only be performed if not in lockdown, unless major structures are not adequately visualised.
  • There will be no routine growth scans unless medically required (such as abnormal womb size growth). Even then, scans will be limited to less than 10 minutes to achieve the growth measurement calculations.
  • There will be no complex growth scans (sometimes called BioPhysical Profiles) unless referred by a specialist. Such scans will be limited to half an hour.

What happens after the baby is born?

Days 1–3: Daily face-to-face contact including mother and baby physical assessments, maternal blood pressure and lochia discharge assessments, neonatal metabolic screening and breastfeeding support (including ideally a home visit within 24 hours of discharge).

Day 4: Phone/video check-up.

Days 5–7: A face-to-face visit, with full mother and baby wellness assessments and support.

Days 8–9: Phone/video check-up.

Days 10–14: Face-to-face visit, with full mother and baby wellness assessments and support.

Week 3: Phone/video check-up.

Weeks 4–5: Face-to-face visit, with full mother and baby wellness assessments.

I'm still really worried, what should I do?

Firstly, this is extremely normal. We're living in extremely challenging times at the moment so on top of the normal stress and anxiety you may face, you have all these hormones floating all around your body, causing you even more distress.

Here are a few things you can do to help:

Talk to your doctor

Tell them exactly how you are feeling. They have the expertise and knowledge to calm your fears.

Look for a birthing class

Many, including myself, are offering online consultations now. These classes will help equip you with information and tools on how to enjoy your pregnancy, despite the difficult times.

Join a mothers' group

Share your worries with your friends. A burden shared is a burden halved. If you want to talk to other mums going through the same thing as you, you could see if you can join a mothers' group. There are some 6000 mums on the Mums At The Table Facebook group, which means you'll find someone going through a similar situation as you. It's a safe community for mums to support and encourage one another, ask parenting questions (anonymously if they want to!) and help give advice. It's a judgement-free zone!

Remember it will be over soon

As all of us pitch in to flatten the curve, many countries, especially Australia and New Zealand, are now looking to ease restrictions. This means while life won't go back to the way we knew it immediately, we're heading towards some semblance of normalcy soon. Stay strong mum. Together, we can face any challenge.

Kathy Fray is on the Mums At The Table’s panel of experts. She is a senior midwife who's been a bestselling birth-babies-motherhood author since 2005. She's also the founding director of the Integrative Maternity Healthcare global summits. kathyfray.com.