Can pregnant women with COVID-19 spread it to their fetuses?

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new study from researchers in Italy suggests that a pregnant woman infected with the coronavirus might be able to spread it to her fetus. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, many doctors questioned whether or not a COVID-19 infection could occur in the womb.  This new study sheds more light on the issue, but there are still many questions.

The small study followed 31 expectant mothers at three hospitals during the height of the outbreak in northern Italy. Researchers found signs of the virus in samples of breast milk, umbilical cord blood and the placenta. 

But some doctors are urging women not to panic because it is still too early to change guidelines based on this evidence. 

Previous research, including an early study from Wuhan, China, showed the virus isn’t typically transmitted from mother to child. The new study from Italy suggests a pregnant woman with the coronavirus could possibly spread it to her fetus. It also found specific antibodies in milk and umbilical cord blood. Dr. Kaylen Silverberg, the Medical Director of Texas Fertility Center, warns there still needs to be more research to understand the true impact of the coronavirus in pregnant women.

“In this study a couple of babies did get infected with COVID, they all did fine, no issues, no problems but still it suggests there is information we don’t know,” said Dr. Silverberg.

He says it will be years before we definitively know how it could impact the child long-term.

“It’s going to be a year or two before we really know what happens to babies infected around the time of birth, but it’s going to be even longer to know what happened to babies who were born to women who got infected after they conceived,” said Dr. Silverberg. “It may be four or five, six years from now before we make sure these babies don’t have developmental delay or they don’t have an increased of autism or speech delay.”

Until then he urges moms to continue following current guidelines of wearing masks and social distancing to help ensure a safe delivery.


Skylar Lovelace is already a mother of two and this time around the stresses of pregnancy are much different. Lovelace’s family has done everything they can to limit exposure to COVID-19, but with crowded waiting rooms at the doctor’s office and her other children possibly going back to school, uncertainly looms.

“If I get this [COVID-19], can the baby get this? On top of that you are so limited to the medications you can take while you’re pregnant, so being that they don’t know what medication will help, it is just scary,” Lovelace said.

Especially for mothers who have COVID-19. In San Antonio – Methodist Hospital has a dedicated unit in its NICU for babies born to mothers with the virus.

“As soon as the baby is born they do bring them to us right outside of the door. So it’s just a very brief moment that the mom might get a glimpse,” Meagan VanDewark, NICU Charge Nurse, told CNN.

More and more hospitals are seeing and treating pregnant women with COVID-19.

To date, 11,312 pregnant women have been infected with COVID-19. There have been a total of 31 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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