Being pregnant amid a pandemic adds an extra layer of stress to what’s already a stressful time.
However, new research suggests that mothers-to-be can breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to COVID-19 transmission from moms to their infants.
Mothers who contract SARS-CoV-2 only rarely transmit the virus to their children in utero or even after birth, as long as proper hygiene practices are followed.
This is according to a new small study conducted by researchers at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital found.
Out of 101 newborns born to COVID-19-positive moms, just two tested positive for the virus. Of those two infants, neither showed signs of illness, the study in JAMA PediatricsTrusted Source reported.
“For many other viral infections, if the mom is sick with the virus, she can pass it on to her newborn through a process called vertical transmission (direct mom to baby transmission),” Dr. Kimberly Kilby, a family and preventive medicine physician and previous director of Communicable Disease Control at the New York Department of Health during the H1N1 flu pandemic, told Healthline.
“So far, for COVID-19, there does not appear to be a significant vertical transmission,” Kilby said.
In addition, “for other viral infections, pregnancy often means that moms are at increased risk of complications, such as preterm labor or more severe illness,” she said. But in this study, the mothers with serious COVID-19 symptoms delivered only about 1 week earlier than the mothers with mild or no symptoms.
“We now know that infants do get COVID-19 from their infected mothers — it’s just not very common, but it does happen,” Dr. Mark Schleiss, a professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School and investigator at the Institute for Molecular Virology, told Healthline. “It happens by two routes: across the placenta while the baby is still in the womb and after birth from face-to-face contact.”
Why COVID-19 appears to be less communicable from mother to baby than some other viruses is unclear, though there are theories.
“Not every disease passes from mom to fetus or from mom to baby during delivery,” Kilby said. “The diseases with the highest risk of passing in these ways are commonly screened for in prenatal care, such as group B streptococcus, herpes simplex, and HIV.”