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Birth, Pregnancy, and Coronavirus: How To Prepare and Plan Ahead Amidst The Uncertainty

A Working Parent’s Prep Guide To Staying Safe and Sane During COVID-19 — From the executive director of Startup Pregnant

Sarah Kathleen Peck
Mar 11 · 7 min read
How do you prepare for a baby with the advent of Coronavirus? Here are my thoughts.

This is part of an ongoing series on Coronavirus and COVID-19. In the first article, I outline why we all need to prepare right now and what we need to do to get on board with social distancing and slowing the spread of the disease. In this article, I want to talk about pregnancy and preparing for birth while dealing with the coronavirus outbreaks.

DISCLAIMERS: I am a parent, a writer, and a researcher with degrees in psychology and biology, as well as a graduate degree in urban planning and landscape architecture. I like to plan ahead for things and tend to overthink, over research, and prepare. That said, I am not a doctor, a medical advisor, and I don’t work within healthcare systems. I am writing this from the perspective of a citizen and a parent. None of this should be construed as medical advice. Please heed your local community guidelines and governments, the CDC, your doctors, and other sources as this outbreak progresses. You can find all all of my sources listed throughout.


Everyone should be taking the following steps to prepare for the widespread outbreaks of coronavirus:

  1. Practice excellent hygiene and try not to get sick or spread the disease. Know that you can spread the disease even if you don’t show symptoms.
  2. Have 30 days of food, supplies, and medications on hand in the instance we have to self-isolate or quarantine. (The purpose of a quarantine is not just if you’re sick; it’s to prevent the spread of disease, see more below).
  3. Have a work-from-home plan ready for your business and your job; ask your supervisors to have one ready and prepared.
  4. Prepare for a disruption to your childcare and your workplaces over the next few weeks and months.
  5. Talk to your family members and check in with your neighbors who might need more help than you.


Coronavirus and pregnancy: what should you do if you’re currently pregnant or expecting?

With my first pregnancy, I got a really bad upper respiratory infection and coughed for weeks. I ended up bruising a few ribs and I was miserable. One of the things that’s so hard about pregnancy is that your immune system is weakened and you can’t take all of the regular cold and flu medications that you might normally take. If you’re getting sick with any cold this season, I feel for you—it’s so hard!

At this point, we don’t know a lot about how coronavirus affects pregnancy and unborn babies, or what the risks are. Let’s look at what we do know so far, what you can do, and why I would advise you, if you are pregnant, to try not to worry too much right now (if possible).

What we do know about pregnancy and COVID-19:

First, what do we know? As of right now, from the CDC:

“We do not have information on adverse pregnancy outcomes in pregnant women with COVID-19. Pregnancy loss, including miscarriage and stillbirth, has been observed in cases of infection with other related coronaviruses [SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV] during pregnancy. High fevers during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the risk of certain birth defects.”

This is alarming at first, but digging in deeper, the risks of miscarriage and stillbirth is just slightly higher. This has always been true-getting a high fever can be hard on a pregnant woman and occasionally have adverse outcomes in your pregnancy. Please remember, however, that most people who are pregnant, who get fevers, are still okay. This does not mean that getting this virus or another virus means you will automatically get a miscarriage or have a preterm baby. Your risk is slightly higher. There are a lot of things that can happen in pregnancy and it can cause a lot of worry.

Buzzfeed has a good article about pregnancy and COVID-19, and in it, Zahra Hirji writes:

“According to a Lancet study published last month, of the nine pregnant women reportedly admitted to the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in China in late January, seven had a fever, four had a cough, three had muscle pain, two had a sore throat, and two reported general discomfort.”

“None of the patients developed severe COVID-19 pneumonia or died, as of Feb 4, 2020,” per the study authors. Four of the nine women birthed their babies early, although beyond the 36-week mark. It’s unknown if this was due to the illness or not. The babies were born relatively healthy.”

So what can you do, given these potentials?


The first, most important course of action you can take are basic preventative health care measures. Try not to get sick. Wash your hands thoroughly, disinfect your doorknobs and basic surfaces, ask your other children to cover their mouths if they cough. Use social distancing measures if you can. But this can be challenging if people present no external symptoms or you have a job that requires lots of in-person interaction.


Use your own guidelines with your own comfort level for what to do next. If you feel like you need to be extra cautious and stay away from other people listen to yourself. You have permission to do what you need to do to keep yourself healthy, and if that means being extra-cautious, feel free to do this.

Personally, I used my doctor’s advice and asked for a note whenever I needed something that I wasn’t sure if other people would be on board with. “Ah, my doctor said I shouldn’t go out to social events right now, let’s catch up by FaceTime or set up a Zoom Call.” In the case of work, use the creativity strategy to help figure this out. “Love this, how can we get creative about solving for this while I work from home? Can we do a brainstorming session? My doctor recommends avoiding crowded places and workplaces for a while, and I figure it’s a good idea for me to be healthy and able to work versus sick and out for along time-I’ll get more work done this way.” Use a doctor’s note to keep quarantined if it’s what you need.


Next, prepare to make it easier on yourself if you do get sick-what foods do you love to have on hand? Can you create a list of your favorite foods, people to call in a pinch? Who can help you, what will make you feel better, and what are your favorite sick-time foods and comforts?

Have pain and symptom relievers on hand to help you navigate a bug if you do get sick. I’ll list them down below, but a steam inhaler, Vick’s vapor rub, epsom salts for baths, massage oils, eucalyptus oil, zinc and vitamin C, elderberry syrup, and other meds can help. Talk to your general practitioner or OBGYN about what to do if you feel ill.


To me, my brain would triage in a couple of different ways. This is my opinion only-this is how I would prepare and think about it. A few broad-strokes questions to consider:

  • If you have an older child at home, who will watch them and care for them in the instances that their schools close?
  • If your birth partner or caretakers get sick, who do you want with you at the birth as a backup? Who can be a backup childcare provider?
  • If there is a surge at the hospital during the week(s) you are due with your baby, do you have alternative plans and places for birthing?
  • If you need to be quarantined during your postpartum period with your new baby, do you have extra supplies and food on hand for that period?

Please don’t let this overwhelm you-instead, take a few hours and think through who you know that you could call on in a pinch. Who are your friends and neighbors that you’d want to support you? Do you have additional family members? It might feel strange to do it, or you might not be that close, but in a twist, disasters or unexpected events are often catalysts for new friendships or increased rates of neighborliness. Make new friends or join an online parent’s group and talk about what’s coming up for you and ask what everyone’s doing to prepare.

More than likely, you will not have to switch your birth plan, but that wouldn’t stop me from reaching out to a few local midwives and doulas and asking to have their contact information on hand. If you go into labor and you need to call someone in a pinch, you’ll be glad to have their numbers.


Add two friends to your birth plan as a backup, write down the numbers of two local midwives or doulas you can call if this takes a turn for the worse.

Coronavirus and newborns, small children + childcare

For parents with small children, one current relief is that this virus doesn’t seem to be affecting children as much as we expected. [Sources: JAMA article and study]Since we have seen that children have had mild to no symptoms so far, this might provide some solace to those of you with older children.

In addition, here are some resources:

  • This podcast episode on preventing the spread of Toddler Germs on The Startup Pregnant Podcast — listen for tips on keeping toddler germs out of the house (including changing their clothes when they get home so their grimy shirts aren’t bringing more germs into the house)
  • Winnie wrote an article about preparing for childcare backup plans.
  • Most children don’t seem to be affected so far by COVID-19, which is wonderful news.

Sarah K Peck writes about parenting, gender, leadership, and the future of work. She is the founder and executive director of Startup Pregnant and the host of The Startup Pregnant Podcast..

Originally published at on March 11, 2020.

Sarah Kathleen Peck

Written by

Escape from Alcatraz swimmer. NCAA All-American. Director of Startup Pregnant: http:/

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