Pregnant women with coronavirus or with symptoms of the virus must give birth in
a hospital, it has been announced.

The New Zealand College of Midwives has issued advice for pregnant women wondering where they should plan to give birth, as the country moves into total lockdown on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced this afternoon New Zealand would immediately raise its alert level to 3, jumping to 4 - the highest level - in 48 hours.

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Under level 4, all non-essential services will be closed as well as all schools shut down, for a minimum of four weeks. Everyone except essential workers will be required to stay home and there will be a major reprioritisation of health services.

The College of Midwives' acting chief executive Jacqui Anderson said the college was in regular communication with the Ministry of Health and DHBs regarding advice to pregnant women amidst the Covid-19 crisis.

Midwives were continuing to practice, following health guidelines, Anderson said. Hospital resources should be kept for those who need them and that remained a focus.

The Herald understands many midwives have already been advised to carry out consultations via phone where possible, and use physical distancing where face-to-face appointments are needed.

Where should women give birth?

The Ministry of Health has advised the following relating to "place of birth", Anderson said. All these are subject to change.

• If a woman does not have any COVID-19 risk factors and is well, she can choose a birth at home, or in a primary unit (birthing unit) or hospital.

• If a woman is in self-isolation for COVID-19 risk factors but is well, home birth may be available in some circumstances. Hospital birth is available but it is not an option to birth in primary units.

• If a woman is self-isolating and has symptoms, hospital birth is her only option.

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• If a woman is confirmed to have Covid-19: hospital birth is her only option.

There have been 36 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number in New Zealand to 102 confirmed cases. Two of those cases are now considered community transmission cases.

Information about Covid-19 is available on the Government's dedicated website, https://covid19.govt.nz/.