COVID-19 in pregnancy increases babies' risk of developmental delays, early study finds

Babies born to mothers who had COVID-19 during pregnancy were more likely to be diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder by their first birthday compared to those born to mothers who did not have COVID-19, according to preliminary findings published June 9 in JAMA Network Open.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Mass General Brigham, both based in Boston, used EHR data to analyze the births of 7,772 babies born in 2020 across six Massachusetts hospitals. Of those, 222 were born to mothers who tested positive for COVID-19 while pregnant. 

About 6 percent of babies who were exposed to COVID-19 in the womb received a neurodevelopmental diagnosis, most of which reflected motor or speech delays, within a year, compared to 3 percent among the unexposed cohort. Risks appeared to be higher when COVID-19 was contracted during the third trimester, the study said. 

Researchers were unable to assess the effect of vaccination, since the births took place before COVID-19 vaccines were available, and called for additional studies that explore how COVID-19 exposure affects fetal brain development. 

 

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