Is it safe to give birth at the hospital? Will I have to give birth alone? Coronavirus has led to a lot of uncertainty for expectant mothers, but Atrium Health is here to help. Our experts share what you need to know about maternity care during the pandemic.

Coronavirus Updates, Womens Health | 6 months ago

Coronavirus and Pregnancy: How We’re Keeping You and Your Baby Safe

Is it safe to give birth at the hospital? Will I have to give birth alone? Coronavirus has led to a lot of uncertainty for expectant mothers, but Atrium Health is here to help. Our experts share what you need to know about maternity care during the pandemic.

Current as of May 21, 2020.


Under any circumstances, pregnancy can be one of the most exciting and worrisome times in a person’s life. And if you’re expecting during the coronavirus pandemic, you may – understandably – be concerned about how it could affect your pregnancy and the health of your baby.

Please know that you’re not alone. At Atrium Health, you have access to a highly skilled team that’s dedicated to keeping you and your baby healthy every step of the way. We’re prepared to provide the highest level of care from your prenatal visits through your delivery and beyond.

Below, our experts answer your questions about what to expect when you’re expecting during the time of coronavirus.

What are the risks of COVID-19 for pregnant women?

Because coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a new virus, scientists are still trying to learn more about how it impacts pregnancy. However, we do know that changes in the immune system put pregnant women at a higher risk for respiratory complications.

“Early in pregnancy, it can be dangerous to get a febrile illness (fever), which can increase the risk of some birth defects,” says Lorene Temming, MD, medical director of labor and delivery at Atrium Health. “That’s true whether the fever is caused by coronavirus or something else.”

According to Dr. Temming, the risk for more severe illness and complications, like pneumonia, is higher later in pregnancy.

Whether you’re a few weeks along or nearing the end of your third trimester, your Atrium Health care team is here to help you and your baby stay safe. If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 at any time, call your OB/GYN or primary care doctor.

Some of my prenatal visits are virtual. Why is that?

We’re leading the way with COVID-Safe care at Atrium Health locations. But at this time, virtual care (or telehealth) is still an important way to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that OB/GYNs and prenatal care providers “maximize the use of telehealth across as many aspects of prenatal care as possible.” In other words, healthcare providers are encouraged to use phone, email and video visits to connect with patients whenever these options are feasible. 

"The Women's Care Division made changes to prenatal visits to ensure our patients and their babies are safe during this time,” says Katie Borders, MD, of Atrium Health Shelby Women's Care. “The technology allows us to continue to interact and engage with our patients and provide them the best care where they are.”

Which prenatal visits should I expect to do virtually?

Your visit plan depends on a few factors, like whether your pregnancy is high-risk. But for most low-risk pregnancies, we’re using virtual care options for appointments that don’t involve a scan or screening. For all pregnancy visits, whether your appointment is in person or virtual, you’ll see or speak to a trusted healthcare provider.

Week by week, here’s what doctors currently recommend for low-risk pregnancies:

  • Positive pregnancy test: Confirmation by virtual appointment
  • 12 weeks: Virtual or office appointment
  • 16 weeks: Virtual appointment
  • 18 to 20 weeks: Anatomy scan and visit in the office
  • 24 to 26 weeks: Virtual appointment
  • 30 weeks: Diabetes screening, RhoGAM (if needed), and visit in the office
  • 33 weeks: Virtual appointment
  • 36 weeks: Group B strep screening and visit in the office
  • 37 weeks: Virtual appointment
  • 38 to 39 weeks: Delivery plan visit in the office
  • 4 to 6 weeks post-delivery: Virtual appointment, unless you need an IUD for birth control

Our recommended visit plan is subject to change as we continue to evaluate the safest way to care for you and your baby. “It’s unlikely that you’ll have this schedule for your entire pregnancy,” says Dr. Borders.

Your healthcare provider will call you to let you know what to expect before each visit.

Can I bring a support person with me to my in-person prenatal visits?

At this time, our offices have a temporary no-visitor policy. “We know this is so hard, but it’s truly meant to keep you and your baby safe,” says Dr. Borders.

We’re continually evaluating our visitor policies and will make changes based on what’s best for your health. If you have questions about the policy at your practice, please contact your healthcare provider.

Will I be able to have a support person with me for my delivery at the hospital?

Yes. To protect the safety of our patients, visitors and healthcare workers, we have temporary visitor restrictions in place at our hospitals. And while this may impact who can join you in the delivery room, we can assure you that you will not be forced to give birth alone.

“One support person is still allowed to be with moms at the hospital,” says Hallie Lyon, a certified nurse midwife with Atrium Health Charlotte OB/GYN. “And there's no plan to take that away.”

Still, we understand that having only one support person can be difficult if you hoped to have others with you in the delivery room. Our staff is not only trained to provide the expert medical care you need, but also to help support you throughout your childbirth experience.

“We have amazing nurses providing excellent and compassionate care for women during their labor and delivery, as well as caring for and supporting them and their newborns after they deliver,” says Lyon.

Will I need to wear a mask at my in-person prenatal visits or the hospital?

Based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we require everyone who enters our facilities to wear a mask, including patients and visitors.

“There continues to be the risk that someone has the disease without feeling sick and can spread it to others,” says Dr. Borders. “Because of this, we require that all patients and visitors wear a mask, or a face covering, to all appointments and in the hospital. This will help protect everyone.”

If you have your own mask, you can wear that. Otherwise, we’ll provide a surgical mask.

Is it safe to deliver at the hospital?

If you’re due to give birth soon, we know you may be worried about exposure to COVID-19 at the hospital. We’ve even had an uptick in questions about home births. And while these concerns are understandable, experts say the hospital is still the safest place to give birth.

Atrium Health hospitals have a separate maternity entrance, so as soon as you arrive, you’ll go straight to the dedicated maternity area. And in addition to our everyday safety protocols, we have extensive COVID-Safe standards in place.

From screening all staff and patients for COVID-19 to establishing separate treatment areas and clinical teams, we’re doing everything we can to keep you safe.

With these precautions in place, the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at the hospital is extremely low. Plus, giving birth at the hospital ensures that you have access to comprehensive, specialized care for you and your newborn.

Experts urge pregnant patients who may be considering a home birth to talk to their OB/GYN about their plan. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, planned home birth in the U.S. has been associated with a greater risk of infant mortality and medical complications.

“Speaking as a certified nurse midwife, I highly believe that the hospital is the safest place to give birth,” says Lyon. “Anything can happen during the labor process, and the hospital is prepared and equipped to handle unexpected events safely.”

Being at the hospital still scares me. Can I wait to go until I’m farther into active labor?

Getting to the hospital at the appropriate time ensures the safest labor and delivery possible, and experts urge you not to delay going out of fear.   

Still, it can be tricky to decide what the right timing is, especially if you’re not sure whether you’re truly in labor.

“You should call your OB/GYN any time you have a concern or a question, or think you need to go to the hospital,” says Lyon. “Sometimes we can handle things over the phone or bring you into the office instead. Your OB/GYN has a 24-hour phone service to help you make that decision.”

Pre and Postpartum Distancing: Who Can See Your Baby

Dr. Temming encourages pregnant patients and their families to continue to socially isolate in the weeks leading up to pregnancy. "I recommend that they plan to continue social distancing postpartum since we know that newborns have potentially more fragile immune systems," she says. 

But we know it's important to have help in that postpartum time frame. If you're able, identify one or two key people who are also practicing strict social distancing prior to birth who can come in and help after delivery. That way contact is limited as much as possible. As for grandparents, if the grandparents have chronic illnesses and are high-risk themselves, Dr. Temming recommends that if possible they wait 14 days after discharge from the hospital before they come to visit.


Where can I learn more?

If you have questions or concerns, the best thing to do is reach out to your healthcare provider.

Here are some other resources you may find helpful:

  • You can email general questions about COVID-19 and pregnancy to COVID19Pregnancy@AtriumHealth.org.
  • For the latest updates about COVID-19 and pregnancy, we recommend checking the CDC .
  • For more information about COVID-19 from Atrium Health, visit our COVID-19 Resource Center.
  • Learn more about the steps we’re taking to keep you safe at AtriumHealth.org/Safe.
  • If you’re feeling down or anxious and need someone to talk to, please call our 24/7 Behavioral Health Help Line at 704-444-2400 to speak to a licensed counselor.

We’re also sharing videos on our channels to keep you updated with the latest info from Atrium Health experts. Here are a few you shouldn't miss:

Look out for more videos on Atrium Heath’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.