COVID-19: Maternity

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For guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE), see PPE use in health care.

Information for community-based midwives at Alert Level 2

This guidance is to help protect pregnant and postnatal women, and community-based midwives. It has advice to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in home and community settings.

This guidance is supported by the following tables.

Table 1

Table 2

Table 3

Occupational health guidance for vulnerable community-based self-employed midwives

This information is a guide for self-employed midwives claiming off the Section 88 Notice who fall into the ‘vulnerable’ category. DHB and private employed midwives should seek guidance from their employers.

Advice for the use of Entonox in labour

Information for radiologists on community-based maternity ultrasounds at Alert Level 2

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance on preventing the spread of COVID-19 in community settings and protecting both pregnant women and their community-based sonographers, radiologists and ancillary staff.


Recommendations for health professionals and whanau on handling of the whenua/placenta for COVID confirmed or suspected women


"Hara mai e tama, puritia te aka matua o te whenua" - Come forth our child, we are bound by deep roots in this land/placenta.

The Ministry of Health acknowledges the rights of tangata whenua and encourages all health professionals to adhere to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The Ministry of Health encourages health professionals to provide culturally safe care of the whenua/placenta along with evidence based best practice.

The cultural guidelines for Maori birthing customs can be found in the Turanga Kaupapa developed by Nga Maia o Aotearoa. The professional body of midwifery has adopted the Turanga Kaupapa in recognition of their obligations to Maori as tangata whenua and should be embedded throughout maternity care. (See New Zealand College of Midwives - Standards of Practice. )

This interim guidance is based on what is currently known about COVID-19 and the transmission of other viral respiratory infections. The Ministry of Health will update this interim guidance as needed, as additional information becomes available.  

The purpose of this guidance is to provide advice on the handling of the whenua/placenta for COVID-19 confirmed or suspected women during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clinical judgement and discussions with whanau should take place to support decision making. 

The likelihood of COVID-19 being transmitted from a whenua/placenta to whanau is remote but cannot be ruled out completely. 

If whanau are planning on keeping their whenua/placenta the following is recommended: 

  • Thorough hand hygiene should be practiced at any time the whenua/placenta is being handled. 
  • Whenua/placenta to be placed into an ipu/container/leakproof bag. Consider biodegradable non-permeable bags to alleviate double handling of the whenua. 
  • After the whenua/placenta is placed in the first ipu/container/bag it should then be placed in a clean non-permeable bag while wearing clean gloves.   
  • Wash hands with soap for a minimum of 20 seconds and thoroughly dry them. Take special care not to touch your face throughout the handling of the container and/or whenua/placenta. 
  • Whenua to be taken from the place of birth as soon as possible following the birth by someone in the same bubble as the birthing woman. 
  • During Alert Level 2, 3 and 4 restrictions are in place regarding non-essential travel, therefore the whenua may need to be stored until such a time that the restrictions are lifted and it can be taken to its final destination.
  • Consider burying the whenua/placenta in a large planter pot to be transplanted once travel restrictions are lifted. 
  • If your whenua/placenta is in a biodegradable ipu or bag it can be buried in that. If it is in a non-biodegradable container it is recommended to remove it from the container prior to burial. Ensure you practice hand hygiene after any handling of the whenua/placenta or ipu/container/bag. See link above for guidance. 
  • If the whenua/placenta is not buried in the container/bag then these must be disposed of immediately in a double plastic/bio-degradable bag. Wash your hands with soap for a minimum of 20 seconds and thoroughly dry them. Take special care not to touch your face throughout the handling of the container and/or whenua/placenta.
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