A small study suggested that COVID-19 positively tested mothers are unlikely to infect the baby during childbirth, especially if the precautionary measures are taken.
The clinical trials suggest that of 120 babies born in New York hospitals, none of the babies had coronavirus even if the mother was COVID-19 positive. Results were similar after two weeks; the baby shared the same room with the mother and was breastfed. However, the experts have confidence in the findings, and they suggest clinical trials on broader data.
Researchers and doctors had scarce data on the risk of COVID-19 transmission during pregnancy, and often mothers choose not to breastfeed directly (they use breast pumps for milk). Therefore, health care systems have issued varied recommendations and precautions for pregnant women and new mothers.
In the United Kingdom, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists suggested mothers follow precautions to share a room with babies and can choose to breastfeed the baby. Alongside this, the World Health Organization highlighted the benefits of breastfeeding for building an immunity to protect against COVID-19.
Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that new mothers consider a temporary separation from the newborn and for feeding use expressing breast milk.
However, in the current study, the mothers shared the room with the newborn baby and breastfed them. They took appropriate measures; frequent hand washing and wearing masks, and the crib was at a distance of 6ft from the mother’s bed.
The findings of the study found none of the babies of 120 mothers were infected with coronavirus at birth. After a week, 82 babies were tested for coronavirus, of whom 68 babies shared a room with mother, and about a three-quarter was breastfed – no child was tested positive for coronavirus. The rest of the 72 babies were also negative after their tests were done on the fortnight.
Besides, about a third of the babies have not been tested for coronavirus, because their parents were not willing to expose the baby to the clinical and hospital environment in the pandemic. A researcher on the study, Dr. Christine Salvatore,
“We hope our study will provide some reassurance to new mothers that the risk of them passing COVID-19 to their babies is very low.”
Professor Marian Knight, a leader of the UK national surveillance on COVID-19 pregnancy, commented,
“More than 1,000 mothers with coronavirus infection have given birth in the UK, and only 1-2% of their babies have had a positive test for COVID-19. Infection does not appear to cause severe illness in these babies.”
The study indicated that the transmission of infection from mother to baby is, however, uncommon and simple precautions of wearing masks by mothers can prevent the spread.