Recent studies indicate that pregnant women infected by the coronavirus can pass the virus on to their babies. At present, there remain no proven interventions with prevention serving as the best approach, according to Claudio Fenizia, an assistant professor of immunology at the University of Milan who led the study.
While just two of the infants in the sample examined by Italian researchers tested positive for the virus and both recovered quickly, the results leave more questions unanswered.
“Our study should be considered a ringing bell to raise awareness that [transmission] is possible,” Fenizia said, urging further research. The researchers found the coronavirus and antibodies against it in the umbilical cord blood, breast milk, placentas and vaginas of some pregnant infected women, leading them to conclude that the virus can be passed to fetuses and newborns.
Still, as Diana W. Bianchi, director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, says, the results appear inconclusive because it’s difficult to determine, even in cases in which a newborn tests positive, whether the child was contaminated by bodily fluids from an infected mother during vaginal delivery or Caesarean section, she notes.
The National Institute of Child Health plans to fund a review of the records of births this year to help determine the impact of the virus on pregnant women and newborns, comparing births in 2019 and 2020 to see if the virus caused consistent medical problems in pregnant women.
As for the Centers for Disease Control, they have noted that pregnant women “might be at increased risk for severe illness” from COVID-19.