Pregnant Women at Very Low Risk of Transmitting COVID-19 to Their Babies

NOTTINGHAM, United Kingdom — For expecting mothers, the fear of spreading the coronavirus to their babies is something that can’t be avoided. Some medical reports have suggested that having a caesarean section would reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 from mother to newborn. A new study finds evidence, however, that pregnant women have little to worry about in regards to the coronavirus.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham say not only are the chances of a woman passing COVID-19 onto her baby are extremely low, but there are more COVID-19 cases after C-section compared to natural birth.

“There has been a lot of concern around whether pregnant women should be concerned for the health of their babies if they contract COVID-19,” says co-author Dr. Kate Walker in a statement. “From our results, we are satisfied that the chance of newborn infection with COVID-19 is low.”

Small percentage of women passed COVID-19 onto babies

The study looked at 655 women with confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses, and 666 newborn babies, as some of the mothers gave birth to twins. Researchers found that only eight women out of 292 giving birth naturally had a baby testing positive for COVID-19; that’s just 2.7 percent. Twenty of the 364 women who had a C-section delivered a baby with COVID-19; a rate of 5.3 percent.

Researchers say that babies born vaginally and then breastfed did not have a higher infection rate compared to those delivered through C-section and fed formula. “We would also stress that a vaginal birth and breastfeeding are safe for mothers who find themselves in these circumstances,” adds Dr. Walker.

The study notes that the infection rate was just as low for babies allowed to have contact with their mothers immediately after birth. The findings also show that neonatal COVID-19 infections are commonly asymptomatic.

“I am happy to see that the data continues to be reassuring, supporting keeping the mother/infant pair together after birth,” says co-author Dr. Jeannette Comeau from Dalhousie University.

Researchers do not have evidence newborns are getting the coronavirus while inside the womb. Newborn cases that have been detected have been found to be mild.

The study is published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 

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