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 1

This document provides guidance on preventing the spread of COVID-19 in home and community settings, and on protecting both pregnant and postnatal women, and their community-based Lead Maternity Carer midwives.

This guidance is supported by the following tables.

Table 1: Advice for community-based midwives caring for women who are probable, confirmed COVID-19 cases, or under investigation for COVID-19

Table 2: Providing midwifery care to women who have no new or worsening respiratory symptoms, but in the last 14 days have travelled overseas or had close contact with someone else who has recently travelled overseas or are a close contact of someone who is a probable or confirmed COVID-19 case

Advice for the use of Entonox in labour

Recommendations for health professionals and whānau on handling of the whenua/placenta for COVID confirmed or probable 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 Māori 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 probablle women during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clinical judgement and discussions with whānau should take place to support decision making. 

At Alert Level 1, the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in New Zealand is now low.

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

If whānau 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 household as the birthing woman. 
  • 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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