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Updated advice for pregnant healthcare workers and employers during the coronavirus outbreak

News 21 March 2020

 

  • New advice for pregnant women who are working in the NHS and other work settings has been published
  • Women who are less than 28 weeks pregnant should practise social distancing but can continue working in a patient-facing role, provided the necessary precautions are taken
  • Women who are more than 28 weeks pregnant, or have underlying health conditions, should avoid direct patient contact

This further clarification has been included in updated national guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Midwives, and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, with input from the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Obstetric Anaesthetists’ Association.

The revised guidance outlines how pregnant women working in healthcare settings can achieve the recommendation for everyone in the UK to limit unnecessary social contact.

Pregnant women in their first or second trimester, that is under 28 weeks’ gestation, with no underlying health conditions, are advised to follow the guidance on social distancing in the same way as the general population and other colleagues. This means they can continue to work but avoid, where possible, caring for patients with suspected or confirmed coronavirus infection, through the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and risk assessment.

Some working environments, such as operating theatres, respiratory wards and intensive care/high dependency units, carry a higher risk for pregnant women of exposure to the virus and all healthcare workers in these settings are recommended to use appropriate PPE. Where possible, pregnant women are advised to avoid working in these areas with suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients.

For pregnant women in their third trimester, after 28 weeks’ gestation, and those at any stage of pregnancy with an underlying health condition – such as heart or lung disease – a more precautionary approach is advised.

Women should work from home where possible, avoid contact with anyone with symptoms of coronavirus, and significantly reduce unnecessary social contact. Employers should seek opportunities for these individuals to work flexibly in a different capacity, to avoid roles where they are working directly with patients.

Dr Edward Morris, President of The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:

“We are aware that the current uncertainty about the risks posed by coronavirus to pregnant women and their babies is causing substantial difficulties and confusion for women, their families and their employers.

"Therefore, we very much welcome this further guidance for pregnant healthcare workers which we have developed with the UK Chief Medical Officers. This will enable women and their employers to more effectively plan their working patterns and continue to make a valuable contribution to the workplace until the start of their maternity leave.

“The evidence base for this new virus is growing rapidly and, as and when new information emerges, we will issue new advice through our guidance.

“As a precaution, we continue to urge pregnant women to follow government advice about social distancing, and to stay away from public places, and in particular avoid anyone who has symptoms suggestive of coronavirus.”

Gill Walton, Chief Executive of The Royal College of Midwives, said:

“We know that many pregnant midwives and maternity support workers have been concerned at the lack of official guidance to help them keep themselves and their babies healthy while also caring and supporting pregnant women.

"We therefore welcome the publication of this guidance for all pregnant healthcare workers and the clarity it brings for them and for employers.”

Professor Russell Viner, President of The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said:

“Our absolute priority is protecting everyone who works in our NHS. Our clinicians and healthcare workers are about to go through a period that will present extraordinary challenges.

"We have a responsibility to make sure that everyone working on the frontline has clear guidance to keep them as safe as possible. This is especially true for colleagues who are pregnant, and we very much welcome this update.”

Ends

Note to Editors

For media enquiries, please contact the RCOG press office on +44 (0)20 7772 6300/444 or email pressoffice@rcog.org.uk

RCOG national guidance on coronavirus infection in pregnancy and Q&As for pregnant women and their families. 

UK government guidance on social distancing for all vulnerable people including pregnant women. 

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