The emergence of viral diseases such as COVID-19 represents a major threat to worldwide public health, particularly the high-impact animal viruses that have switched hosts, emerged in humans and are able to be transmitted within human populations. Pandemics threaten the general population; however, there are special populations, such as pregnant women and their babies, which may be at a higher risk and more susceptible to, or more severely affected by, infectious diseases. Pregnancy is considered a unique immunological condition; therefore, current challenges include decisions on preventing and treating infections during pregnancy and the possible implications for the fetus and newborn infant. This integrative review, the first of a two-part series, analyses selected literature on COVID-19 within maternal and newborn care, drawing on key themes relating to the impact on the pregnant woman. The themes discussed with specific reference to COVID-19 are; the nature of the immune system in pregnant and newly birthed mothers, maternal risk, mode of birth, care during pregnancy and childbirth. Finally, the implications for practice are discussed regarding the impact on maternal mental well-being and parenting.