Initial studies say Coronavirus does not pass to unborn babies or to newborns

By Dave Andrusko

A story that appeared in the New Scientist today headlined “Coronavirus: What we know so far about risks to pregnancy and babies” concludes that while we are still in the early stages of research, the severe covid-19 virus  “doesn’t seem to pass to fetuses.”

The basis for Jessica Hamzelou’s encouraging post was a report, also published today, by Yalan Liu at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, in China, and her colleagues, which “covers four women who were infected with the virus when they gave birth to their four babies. All four women were ill with the virus when they gave birth. But the four babies were born healthy, without any covid-19 symptoms.”

Another study produced more “mixed results,” Hamzelous wrote (although nine of ten babies survived), but

Other reports have been more reassuring, says Pat O’Brien, vice president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) in the UK. A report covering 15 women who had had covid-19 during pregnancy found no evidence that the women had worse symptoms than women who weren’t pregnant. “In this report, the pregnant women achieved a good recovery without the use of antiviral drugs,” the authors write.

By the time that study was written, 11 of the women had given birth, and none of their babies had been born infected.

O’Brien  added, “At the moment, there’s no evidence whatsoever that there’s an increased risk of miscarriage.”

What about after the baby is born? Hamzelou writes

Early reports suggest that the virus doesn’t pass from mother to baby via breastmilk. But health bodies are advising new mothers who are infected with the virus to take precautions while breastfeeding, such as washing their hands and wearing a face mask.

In fact, people who recover from the virus before giving birth will develop antibodies against it – and may give their babies some protection against the virus by breastfeeding. In this way, such babies could technically be the first to receive any kind of vaccine against the virus, says O’Brien.

The scientists and physicians involved cautioned that while they are “desperate for more information” (as O’Brien put it), the first results are very encouraging.