Mother-to-newborn transmission of COVID-19 is rare, study finds

Mother-to-newborn transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 is rare, but infants may still face indirect health risks if their mothers develop severe cases, according to a study published April 23 in Jama Network Open.

Researchers from several Boston-area hospitals, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Brigham and Women's Hospital, conducted the study. They analyzed data on 255 newborns born to women who tested positive for COVID-19 within two weeks of their delivery, or up to three days after. The babies were delivered between March and July 2020 at 11 Massachusetts hospitals that represent about 50 percent of all births in the state. 

Of the 255 newborns, 88.2 percent underwent COVID-19 testing after their birth, and only 2.2 percent were positive. While mother-to-newborn transmission was low, worsening maternal illness accounted for 73.9 percent of preterm births, researchers found.

Researchers had follow-up data available for 151 newborns, which showed 26 had nonroutine clinical visits, seven underwent COVID-19 testing, and one had a positive result. 

"Our findings support the need for thoughtful and collaborative decision-making around delivery timing in the setting of maternal COVID-19 illness," said senior author Mandy Brown Belfort, MD, director of clinical research in the pediatric newborn medicine department at Brigham and Women's Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics at Boston-based Harvard Medical School.

To view the full study, click here.


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