Mothers Infected With COVID-19 Pose Low Risk of Transferring Virus to Babies

April 30, 2021
Killian Meara

Killian Meara, assistant editor for ContagionLive, joined the MJH Life Sciences team in November 2020. He graduated from William Paterson University with a degree in liberal studies, and concentrations in history and psychology. He enjoys film, reading, and pretending he is a good cook. Follow him on Twitter @krmeara or email him at [email protected]

While a slightly higher rate of morbidity was observed, a small percentage of babies presented with COVID-19 after birth.

A recent study conducted by investigators from the Karolinska Institutet, in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Sweden, have discovered that mothers who have tested positive for COVID-19 pose a very low risk of passing on the virus to their newborn babies.

Results from the study were published in the journal JAMA.

The findings from the study support the recommendation from Swedish health officials that separating a newborn from their mother is not necessary.

"Separating a newborn baby from its mother is a serious intervention with negative consequences for the health of both mother and baby that must be weighed against the possible benefits," Mikael Norman, an author on the study said. "Our study suggests that mother and baby can be cared for together and that nursing can be recommended without danger to the baby's health. This is good news for all pregnant women, their babies and postnatal and neonatal staff."

For the study, the team of investigators analyzed data from nearly 90,000 births in Sweden during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, 2,323 babes were born to a mother who tested positive with SARS-CoV-2.

Findings from the study showed that there was a slightly higher rate of morbidity in neonates whose mothers had COVID-19, as well as an increased risk for respiratory disorders.

However, no direct correlation was observed between maternal infection and neonatal respiratory infection or pneumonia.

Additional findings showed that only 0.9% of babies born with COVID-19 infected mothers tested positive for the virus within the first 28 days of being born, and the majority who did test positive did not show any symptoms.

“Given that mothers and their infants were kept together, the results presented herein suggest that the risk of viral transmission from mothers to their newborns and older infants is low, and should it occur, infants are not severely affected,” the authors wrote. “These findings suggest that routine use of interventions such as mother-infant separation and stopping breastfeeding may not be necessary. An additional message of this study is that SARS-CoV-2 test positivity in mothers did not prolong hospital stay for families.”