Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19 Testing with Labor & Delivery Patients
COVID-19 testing may be included in your care plan when you give birth at any hospital in the Memorial Hermann Health System. Some expectant mothers can be carriers of the virus without any symptoms. Reliable testing is now more readily available, and the test result is valuable for planning for the health and safety of all mothers and newborn babies. Talk to your healthcare provider about your testing plan.
What are the known and potential risks and benefits of the test?
Potential risks include:
- Discomfort during sample collection
- False negative test result
Potential benefits include:
- The results, along with other information, can help your healthcare provider make informed recommendations about care for you and your baby
- The results of this test may help limit the spread of COVID-19 to your family and others in your community
What happens if my test results are negative?
You will receive routine obstetrical care, with special precautions.
What happens during labor and delivery if I test positive for COVID-19?
If your test results are positive, your provider will discuss the plan of care for you and your baby. Staff will take extra precautions to maintain your safety and the safety of you and your baby to prevent any potential exposure.
There is little evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be transmitted from mom to baby during pregnancy or delivery. However, a few reports exist of newborns as young as a few days old that have contracted COVID-19, suggesting that mother-to-baby transmission of the disease can occur through close contact after delivery (for example, through respiratory droplets).
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends temporary separation of mother and newborn to minimize the risk of postnatal infant infection from maternal respiratory secretions. The decision about how to care for you and your baby will be based on whether you are sick or have symptoms, as well as any other risk factors that may affect your baby. Your baby’s doctor will discuss the recommended plan of care based on all of these factors.
What if I decline the COVID-19 test?
After a discussion about the risks and benefits of your choice with your doctor, your decision will be respected. Your healthcare team will take extra precautions to protect themselves from the potential risk while caring for you and your baby.
Will my support person be tested?
No. He or she will be screened upon entering the hospital according to symptoms and temperature, as well as given a mask to wear at all times in the hospital. This is in an effort to preserve availability of tests for all of our patients and workforce throughout our healthcare system.
Can I breastfeed if I have COVID-19?
So far, the virus has not been found in breast milk; however, there is currently not enough information yet on whether women who are sick can pass the virus through breast milk.
Breast milk gives babies protection against many illnesses. It also is the best source of nutrition for most babies. Talk with your OB-GYN or other health care professional about whether to start or continue breastfeeding. You may be able to breastfeed with a mask or pump your milk and give it to your baby. You can make this decision together with your family and health care team.
If you are sick and choose to breastfeed:
Wear a facemask and wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60% to 95% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty. See the CDC’s handwashing tips.
If you are COVID-19 positive and choose to express breast milk:
- Express breast milk to establish and maintain milk supply.
- Use a dedicated breast pump.
- Wash hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and before expressing breast milk.
- Follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use, cleaning all parts that come into contact with breast milk.
- If possible, consider having someone who is not sick/infected feed your expressed breast milk to the infant.
How can I avoid passing COVID-19 to my baby?
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or if you have been diagnosed, you can take the following steps to avoid passing the virus to your baby:
- Before touching your baby, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60% to 95% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty. See the CDC’s handwashing tips.
- Maintain 6 feet of separation between you and your newborn.
- Using a curtain/screen between you and your newborn.