Covid-19-positive mothers rarely transmit infection to newborns: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on October 13, 2020

Measures like separating Covid-19-positive mothers from their newborns, avoiding direct breastfeeding may not be warranted, the study says

Mothers, who are coronavirus positive, rarely transmit the infection to their newborns, if basic transmission control practices are followed, as per the new study by Columbia University Irving Medical Centre and NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.

For the study, researchers examined the most detailed data available on the Covid-19 infection risk for newborns.

Their findings suggested that more extensive measures like separating Covid-19-positive mothers from their newborns and avoiding direct breastfeeding may not be warranted.

The study was published online in JAMA Pediatrics.

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Senior author Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, the Ellen Jacobson Levine and Eugene Jacobson Professor of Women’s Health in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University, said in a statement: “Our findings should reassure expectant mothers with Covid-19 that basic infection-control measures during and after childbirth, such as wearing a mask and engaging in breast and hand hygiene when holding or breastfeeding a baby, protected newborns from infection in this series.”

For the study, the researchers analysed the results in the first 101 newborns of Covid-19-positive mothers at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital between March 13 to April 24, 2020.

The hospital staff adhered to social distancing protocols to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus to newborns after delivery. They placed Covid-positive moms in private rooms. The hospitals provided the mothers with educational materials about Covid-19 and shortened hospital stays for all mothers without complications from delivery.

The researchers found that infants who roomed with their moms did not contract the virus if they were placed in protective cribs six feet away from the mothers’ beds when resting.

Direct breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact with babies were strongly encouraged, provided the moms wore masks and washed hands and breasts with soap and water.

Also read: Covid-positive pregnant women’s symptoms may persist for months, says study

“During the pandemic, we continued to do what we normally do to promote bonding and development in healthy newborns, while taking a few extra precautions to minimise the risk of exposure to the virus,” said Gyamfi-Bannerman.

Only two of the newborns tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 but had no clinical evidence of illness.

Gyamfi-Bannerman concluded: “We think it’s particularly important that mothers with Covid-19 have the opportunity to directly breastfeed their newborns. Breast milk is known to protect newborns against numerous pathogens, and it may help protect newborns against infection with SARS-CoV-2. Most studies have not found SARS-CoV-2 in breast milk, and breast milk has been found to contain antibodies against the virus.”

Published on October 13, 2020

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