COVID-19

COVID-19 FAQs

Please see the Pregnancy Vancouver website for an up-to-date resources related to COVID-19 and pregnancy and parenting. This can be accessed here

Is it safe to have my baby at St. Paul’s Hospital during COVID?
Yes, we’re taking all the necessary steps to ensure we are prepared to look after you and your family safely during this time. We continue to provide 1:1 nursing care and support during your labour experience. Expert obstetrical, family practice, pediatric, midwifery, and nursing care is in place to support you and your family during your birthing experience.

As the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases increase across Canada and the world, we understand it can be overwhelming to make sense of all the information currently available.
So we’ve asked our St. Paul’s Hospital maternity experts to answer some of the most commonly asked questions from our mother’s community.

The good news is, to date, evidence indicates that pregnant women are at no more risk than non-pregnant women. Additionally, so far there has been a much lower rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children, compared to the general population.

How is COVID-19 transmitted?
The virus appears to spread through respiratory droplets and also by things that you can touch (surfaces, towels etc.). People are most contagious when they are most symptomatic (i.e. the sickest) but spread can also occur when a person is asymptomatic. To help restrict the spread of the infection, you and your family should focus on good hand hygiene, avoiding handshakes and large gatherings, and practicing physical distancing and consider wearing a mask where physical distancing is not possible.

Can COVID-19 be transmitted in pregnancy?
To-date, there have been a few cases reported of possible transmission from mother to baby in the womb but the rates appear to be low. Some of these infections may have been the result of the baby catching the virus after birth, but it does appear that it is possible, although rare, for the virus to be transmitted to baby before birth. We are continually reviewing the literature to learn as quickly as we can on this topic.

What effect does COVID-19 have on pregnant women and new moms?
The vast majority of women will experience either nothing (asymptomatic) or mild to moderate cold/flu like symptoms. Fever and cough are the most common symptoms, with runny nose and sneezing being less frequent symptoms. Initial data suggests that pregnant women get no more (or less) sick than non-pregnant women who have contracted the virus.

The greatest risk with COVID-19 appears to be in older people, those whose immune system is suppressed, or with underlying health conditions like diabetes, cancer, cardiac conditions or chronic lung disease.

Does COVID-19 affect babies?
Based on our knowledge to-date, it appears that it is uncommon for the virus to cross the placenta and affect the baby. It also appears that COVID-19 does not induce premature labour and there is no information to suggest that COVID-19 causes miscarriage. Newborn babies who have been affected, either from transmission in the womb or early infection, do not appear to develop a serious illness. To date, there has been a much lower rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children, relative to the general population, in all countries around the world.

Is a caesarean section safer?
There is no evidence to suggest that a caesarean section is safer for women who have COVID-19, and it is not being recommended as a birth option for this reason alone. The evidence we have to date is that transmission to babies does not happen during pregnancy or during the birth.

Are you screening all women who come to St. Paul’s Hospital to have their baby?
We are assessing and asking all our patients basic screening questions for COVID.  Your obstetrician, family doctor and/or midwife will be asking you questions regularly during your regular check-ups prior to birth for symptoms of COVID.  Based on the Centre for Disease Control guidelines and the medical direction from our expert infection control team, we are not swabbing and physically testing all patients.  Patients whom we are swabbing and formally testing, are those who present as symptomatic for COVID.

For those patients who are booked for a scheduled caesarean section, we are both pre-screening these patients on the phone by asking standard screening questions prior to coming to the hospital and formally testing (swabbing) these patients in our pre-admission clinic. If you are scheduled for a caesarean section, you will be contacted by our nurse and care team in advance to schedule testing and go over the process for your procedure.

What will my labour experience be like at St. Paul’s Hospital?
For women planning a vaginal delivery, your labour experience should follow our normal process (before COVID). The current recommended practice for COVID-positive labouring women is to have continuous electronic fetal monitoring and to consider early epidural.

Staff caring for women in labour will be taking all possible precautions against spreading the COVID virus such as wearing protective eye gear, mask and gloves at all times. This is the biggest difference that you will experience. Otherwise, our efforts are to normalize this time for you and your partner.

During this time, we’re limiting visitors and extended family members from entering the unit. One person (for example, your partner) is able to accompany you to the hospital. If your support person has symptoms of COVID, he/she will not be permitted to enter the hospital.

Only certified doulas are welcome to accompany you as well and not experiencing symptoms of COVID. They will need to present their certification when coming to the hospital and they need to have been certified before March 2020.

Under usual circumstances, we welcome you to bring a broader support team and for your extended family to wait in our family area. However, due to COVID and to protect our families and our staff, we’re limiting all visitors to the Maternity centre.

Can my partner be with me if my baby is born via caesarean section?
Yes, one support person will be permitted to accompany you into the operating room for caesarean births, as long as they have no symptoms of COVID. This is for both planned and scheduled caesarean births and for cases that are urgent. Sometimes, things can move very quickly during a planned vaginal birth that may require an urgent or emergency caesarean section. We will take all measures to ensure your partner or support individual is there to accompany you. However, it is important to note than very occasionally, this is not feasible. If the mom is COVID-positive, unfortunately no support person will be permitted to attend the operating room for the safety of mom, baby, and partner and care team.

If you have a family physician or midwife as your primary care provider and require a caesarean birth, your family physician or midwife and your primary support person will be able to accompany you into the waiting room, where possible.

After the baby is born, can my partner/support person leave the Maternity Centre and come back?
Our recommendation is that your partner stays with you during the entire duration of your stay at St. Paul’s Hospital Maternity Centre. We are ordering meals for your partner during this time. Our rationale is that if you partner is in the community, there may be increased risk of transmission by bringing the virus back to the Maternity Centre. However, we do recognize that you may have children at home that need attending to or you may just need to go directly home, shower, rest, and return directly to the unit without coming into contact with anyone.Please advise our care team of your need to leave the unit, and we’ll work together to ensure everyone’s safety.

Do you have complimentary WIFI at the Maternity Centre at St. Paul’s Hospital?
Yes! We have WIFI available free for our patients and families. We encourage you to virtually introduce your new baby to your extended family and friends during your stay.

Are all the same pain and analgesic options available to me during this time?
We continue to provide 1:1 nursing care and support during your labour experience. Expert obstetrical, family practice, pediatric, midwifery, and nursing care is in place to support you and your family during your birthing experience.   Comfort measures such as walking and showering are available. Entonox (laughing gas) which was initially not available is now available.  Narcotic pain medications (such as morphine and fentanyl) and epidurals are available.

What about breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is encouraged for all moms who want to do so. We currently have no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 passes through breast milk, but protective antibodies do. The concern for new moms who have COVID-19 is rather their close contact with their baby, as the virus is most commonly spread by respiratory droplets.

Like always, moms should thoroughly wash their hands (for at least 20 seconds) before each feed.  We are recommending COVID-19 positive new moms to wear a face mask while feeding. But, otherwise, we are encouraging breastfeeding your newborn.

The Vancouver Breastfeeding Clinic has virtual appointments available and are set up to do in person appointments in a safe environment for those that need to be seen. A referral is required from your obstetrician, family doctor or midwife.  Baby Prep is providing virtual lactation support with Face Time. Please note that this is a private service. There is a cost and patients/clients can contact them with no referral.

We additionally have information for parents to learn how to self-weigh the newborn at home. This information will be shared with you by our medical, midwifery and nursing team during your hospital stay.

Are there any special precautions to take around bottle feeding and sterilization due to COVID?
No. The usual process around bottle sterilization and cleanliness apply. We recommend the following:

  • Always wash your hands before handling baby bottles or feeding your baby.
  • Scrub bottles and components in hot, soapy water, then rinse to get rid of all traces of soap; some experts recommend boiling them for 5 minutes.
  • Always wash and thoroughly rinse and dry the top of the formula can before you open it; make sure the can opener, mixing cups, jars, spoons, and other equipment are clean.

What can I do to stay healthy?
The advice for pregnant women is no different to everyone else in the general community.

  1. Think about keeping grandparents safe
    You may need to call on someone to help care for your baby or other children if you become unwell. A lot of the time we call on grandparents for this help, but it’s important to remember that older people are the most likely to become seriously ill should they contract COVID-19, and the most at risk of fatality.  Now is a great time to think about making alternative arrangements and consider who you can call on, should you or your partner become unwell.
    If you do have to call on grandparents, please ensure you’ve spoken with them about how they can reduce their risk of infection while caring for your baby or children.
  2. Hygiene is key
    The most important thing you can do to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 is to practice good hygiene. This includes: cleaning your hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rubs; covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing; avoiding touching your face, nose and mouth and avoid shaking hands; staying home if you are unwell; avoiding contact with anyone who is unwell—try to stay 1.5m away from anyone coughing or sneezing.
  3. Pay attention to physical distancing and your bubble. After discharge, limit the number of people you introduce your baby to, to those already in your bubble. They should not come to your house if they are sick. Consider introduce your new baby to people by virtual visits rather than in-person. Self-isolation, within the guidelines of public health, for your immediate family/caregivers (plus good hand hygiene) is the best way to keep your baby safe. Going for walks is safe. Continue to attend your regularly scheduled healthcare appointments.

What do I do if I am feeling unwell or experiencing signs and symptoms of COVID19?
If you are unwell with symptoms of COVID-19  general feeling of malaise and have no complications of pregnancy, you should contact your primary health care provider for screening and advice. If you are unwell, for example, experiencing respiratory distress, please attend the Emergency Department

Is a patient coming to St. Paul’s at risk of contracting COVID-19? Do you have masks to protect patients?
It is safe to attend St. Paul’s Hospital to have your baby. We are taking all precautions to plan and reduce transmission of the virus. Our medical, midwifery and nursing teams are preparing every day to care for you and your family safely.  In the event that they are required, masks will be provided to families. You will notice all of our care staff are wearing protective eye gear and masks to keep you and our staff safe.

Can I come to the Maternity Centre at St. Paul’s Hospital if I am unwell or should I attend an Emergency Department? Even postpartum?
If you are unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 and have no complications of pregnancy, you should attend the Emergency Department or your primary health care provider for screening. However, if you have pregnancy symptoms/complications, please come to the Maternity Centre at St. Paul’s Hospital regardless of other symptoms.

Is it possible that St. Paul’s Maternity Centre will close during this time?
We are currently fully open and prepared to deliver your baby at St. Paul’s Hospital. We work with our partners at BC Women’s Hospital every day and collectively we will do what is best to provide the best care to you and your family during this time.

We have added precautions to keep our women, newborns and staff safe as coronavirus evolves:

  • All visitors will be restricted to one partner OR support person only. (And certified doulas).
  • Unfortunately siblings will not be able to visit during this time, and we recommend that grandparents and elderly people, who are most at risk, are not your support person. No substitution of support persons will be permitted.
  • For families with babies in in Neonatal Intensive Care, visitors will be restricted to the mother plus one partner OR support person. Unfortunately siblings and grandparents will not be able to visit during this time.

Will I have to share a room?
All of our rooms at St. Paul’s Hospital Maternity Centre are single rooms.

What happens if a family member shows symptoms, is sick or in isolation? Can they still be my birth partner/visit?
No, they cannot be your support person and cannot visit.

If I have symptoms will my booked caesarean procedure go ahead?
Depending on the severity of your symptoms you will be assessed by the medical team and a plan of care made from there on an individual basis.

Can I be discharged home early?
We are discouraging discharge before 24-hours as we need to complete tests to make sure your baby is healthy. Once these tests are complete, and you and your baby are ready, we are happy for you to go.

Are there prenatal classes available?
St. Paul’s Maternity is pleased to announce that we are now offering virtual prenatal classes online addressing labour and delivery, newborn care and breastfeeding.  The goal of prenatal classes is to provide you with the knowledge and confidence you need to give birth and make informed decisions regarding your care, and ultimately have a healthy mother and baby. Your support person will also benefit from knowing what to expect when the mother goes into labour and how to assist in that process.

Our instructors are registered maternity nurses from St Paul’s Hospital and are familiar with the hospital protocols. Our curriculum and content have been developed and tailored in partnership with our expert clinicians at St. Paul’s Hospital.

Our new virtual prenatal classes are individualized one-on-one sessions delivered through the Zoom platform. Each two-hour session will be tailored for you and your birthing partner. The content is designed for expectant moms registered to deliver at St. Paul’s, but are open to all.

The classes have a small associated fee. We recommend that you register for a class that is between four to six weeks from your due date.

To book a virtual prenatal class, please email prenatalclasses@providencehealth.bc.ca Once successfully registered in the class, you will receive confirmation of your registration via email, and instructions on accessing the online Zoom meeting at the designated time.

Baby Prep is a local private prenatal program that you may find helpful during this time. There is a cost to register.

What happens if I go into labour during my self-isolation period?
Your maternity team know how to ensure you and your baby receive safe, quality care, respecting your birth plan as closely as possible.

  • You are advised to attend hospital via private transport where possible.
  • When you arrive at St. Paul’s Hospital Maternity Centre we will undertake a health screen. If you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19, you will be provided with a surgical face mask that needs to stay on until advised otherwise.
  • Coronavirus testing will be arranged.
  • Patients may each have a maximum of one visitor OR support person (birth partner). Your birth partner will be able to stay with you throughout your labour. We are accepting Certified Doulas into the birthing room.

Will I be able to stay with my baby/provide skin-to-skin if I have suspected or confirmed COVID-19?
Based on current knowledge and assuming you and baby are stable, then skin-to-skin care (with appropriate mask and hygiene) is what we suggest.  Each case will be reviewed with your medical team to plan your care.  A discussion about the risks and benefits should take place between you and your family and the doctors caring for your baby (pediatrician) to individualize care for your baby.  This guidance may change as knowledge evolves.

If my baby is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) can I visit?
For families with babies in NICU, visitors will be restricted to the mother plus one partner OR support person. Unfortunately siblings and grandparents will not be able to visit during this time. The support person is also not interchangeable (e.g. partner one day and grandparent tomorrow). The support person needs to remain consistent throughout the stay.  This guidance may change as information evolves.  Special planning will take place with our medical and nursing team in the event that the parents of the infant are COVID +. Our priority is keeping our babies, parents, and staff as safe as possible.

What is NICU doing to protect babies from getting COVID-19?
Any staff member with any illness must stay at home and not come into work—this is particularly important in NICU as any infection can be dangerous for our seriously ill and premature babies.  Staff member are wearing additional personal protective gear during this time including masks, gloves, and at time, eye wear.

St. Paul’s Hospital has limited visitors and non-essential staff our hospital, as well as undertaking routine health screening before entering for patients, visitors and our staff members attending work.  NICU beds have been spaced to ensure that all babies/families are 2 metres apart. Babies who are suspected or known COVID+ will be cared for in a separate nursery from our other babies at this time.

What happens if a baby in NICU gets COVID-19?
Emerging evidence from other countries is that it is very uncommon for newborn babies to be born with COVID-19, even if the mother has the virus.  Babies who contract the illness after birth only appear to have a mild illness.
We still do not know what effects the illness will have on vulnerable premature babies or babies with underlying conditions and so for that reason and to protect all our babies and staff we continue to have strong measures in place to protect our babies, parents and staff.

Would it be safer to just stop visiting my baby in NICU altogether?
If you practice the measures above you are safe to visit your baby. As long as you are well enough, it is important for you and your baby to have time together and your baby needs to experience your touch, smell and/or voice. It is beneficial to both the mother’s and baby’s health to have skin to skin time.

Can I bring my other children to the hospital grounds (outside) to meet our newborn?
No. At this time all visitors to St. Paul’s Hospital Maternity Centre will be restricted to one partner OR support person only. This does unfortunately mean that children are not permitted to visit the hospital, including hospital grounds.  We apologize for any inconvenience caused, this decision has been made to keep our women, newborns and staff safe while we continue to provide care at St. Paul’s.

Should I consider changing to a home birth?
As COVID-19 continues to evolve, St. Paul’s Hospital is committed to providing compassionate care within the current guidelines. We have taken appropriate measures to ensure the safety of our mothers, babies, staff and the community. Thus, all women who are booked to give birth at St. Paul’s Hospital should continue to do so. If you have any questions, please speak with your obstetrician, family doctor or midwife.

If have any further questions regarding your condition, please contact your midwife, family doctor or obstetrician.