WHO guidelines on pregnancy and breastfeeding during Ebola outbreak

on 13 February 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released guidelines on pregnancy and breastfeeding during an Ebola outbreak.

The guidelines, which have been produced as the second largest Ebola outbreak continues in the Democratic Republic of Congo, are new guidelines for midwives and allied health professionals who are supporting pregnant or breastfeeding women in the context of Ebola.

WHO’s guidance recommends that women with suspected or confirmed Ebola immediately stop breastfeeding and are prioritised for diagnostic testing.

If a child is exposed to the viral infection through breastmilk they should be placed into safe care, with their symptoms monitored over a 21-day period.

The guidelines strongly recommend breastfeeding should only restart following two consecutive negative tests of breastmilk separated by 24 hours.

The latest evidence on the viral infection shows that Ebola increases the risk of miscarriage and early labour. Pregnant women should be prioritised for testing to confirm an Ebola infection.

WHO also recommends healthcare workers protect themselves while caring for pregnant women with the infection. This includes during inducing labour or surgical procedures and carrying out invasive treatments.

The guidance also states that a disease outbreak does not change a woman’s or adolescent girl’s fundamental right to sexual and reproductive healthcare, including evidence-based care during pregnancy and childbirth.

Women living in an Ebola outbreak area should have access to all relevant reproductive options regardless of economic, cultural, racial or religious status, including contraception and safe abortion to the full extent of the law.

More information and guidelines on pregnancy and breastfeeding in an Ebola outbreak can be found on the WHO website here.