In a study published in the JAMA Network Open, scientists analyzed data from 255 babies born between March and July 2020 in Massachusetts hospitals to women with confirmed COVID-19.
Doctors tested 88.2% of children for coronavirus, and only six newborns from this cohort tested positive, that is, only 2.7%. The big discovery was that the mode of delivery (vaginal delivery or caesarean section), as well as the severity of the course of COVID-19, did not in any way affect the likelihood of infection of the child.
However, the presence of infection in mothers was associated with other risks to the health of newborns: for example, 24.3% of children were born either with low birth weight or prematurely, 19.2% required resuscitation at birth.
In this study, scientists also assessed the relationship between the social status of the mother and the risk of infection, and it turned out that this factor was one of the key ones. Women who live in poor neighborhoods, have low incomes and contract COVID-19 are almost five times more likely to transmit the virus to their children. According to scientists, this may be due to prolonged stress on the mother, which affects the immune response of both the mother and the baby.
Earlier, the World Health Organization stated the need not to separate the mother and child after childbirth, even in the case of a confirmed COVID-19 in a woman in labor. The organization cites a study according to which being close to the mother reduces the mortality of premature babies or underweight by 40%, the likelihood of hypothermia by more than 70%, and the risk of contracting dangerous infections by 65%.
“The disruption to health services during the pandemic has seriously affected the quality of support for the most vulnerable children, including vital contact with the parent,” said WHO Director of Maternity, Dr. Anshu Banerjee. He warned that long-term gains in reducing child mortality will be canceled if health authorities do not pay due attention to supporting mothers and newborns.