After a newborn (born to a mother infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing positive for COVID-19 infection within 36 hours of birth, there were concerns about whether the virus could be contracted in the womb. A new study finds that COVID-19 does not pass to the child while in the womb. The women in the small study were from Wuhan, China, in the third trimester of pregnancy and had pneumonia caused by COVID-19. However, it only included women who were late in their pregnancy and gave birth by caesarean section.
There were two cases of fetal distress but all nine pregnancies resulted in live births. That symptoms from COVID-19 infection in pregnant women were similar to those reported in non-pregnant adults, and no women in the study developed severe pneumonia or died.
All mothers in the study were aged between 26-40 years. None of them had underlying health conditions, but one developed gestational hypertension from week 27 of her pregnancy, and another developed pre-eclampsia at week 31. Both patients’ conditions were stable during pregnancy. The nine women in the study had typical symptoms of COVID-19 infection, and were given oxygen support and antibiotics. Six of the women were also given antiviral therapy. In the study, the medical records of nine pregnant women who had pneumonia caused by COVID-19 infection were retrospectively reviewed. Infection was lab-confirmed for all women in the study, and the authors studied the nine women’s symptoms.
In addition, samples of amniotic fluid, cord blood, neonatal throat swabs and breast milk were taken for six of the nine cases  and tested for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Importantly, the samples of amniotic fluid, cord blood, and neonatal throat swabs were collected in the operating room at the time of birth to guarantee that samples were not contaminated and best represented intrauterine conditions. All nine pregnancies resulted in live births, and there were no cases of neonatal asphyxia. Four women had pregnancy complications (two had fetal distress and two had premature rupture of membrane), and four women had preterm labor which was not related to their infection and occurred after 36 gestational weeks. Two of the prematurely born newborns had a low birth weight.
The authors note that their findings are similar to observations of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus in pregnant women, where there was no evidence of the virus being passed from mother to child during pregnancy or birth. The findings are based on a limited number of cases, over a short period of time, and the effects of mothers being infected with the virus during the first or second trimester of pregnancy and the subsequent outcomes for their offspring are still unclear, as well as whether the virus can be passed from mother to child during vaginal birth.
Dr Jie Qiao (who was not involved in the study) of Peking University Third Hospital, China,compares the effects of the virus to those of SARS, and says: “Previous studies have shown that SARS during pregnancy is associated with a high incidence of adverse maternal and neonatal complications, such as spontaneous miscarriage, preterm delivery, intrauterine growth restriction, application of endotracheal intubation, admission to the intensive care unit, renal failure, and disseminated intravascular coagulopathy. However, pregnant women with COVID-19 infection in the present study had fewer adverse maternal and neonatal complications and outcomes than would be anticipated for those with SARS-CoV-1 infection. Although a small number of cases was analysed and the findings should be interpreted with caution, the findings are mostly consistent with the clinical analysis done by Zhu and colleagues of ten neonates born to mothers with COVID-19 pneumonia.”