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Transmission of COVID-19 from mother to baby during pregnancy is uncommon, study finds

Researchers found mothers who breastfeed aren’t putting their babies at risk

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A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Nottingham explored the risk associated with pregnant mothers passing on COVID-19 to their newborns. 

According to the researchers, the risk of newborns contracting the infection is low. Though some newborns have tested positive for coronavirus, they weren’t showing symptoms. The researchers say that being around their mothers or breastfeeding wasn’t harmful to their health. 

“There has been a lot of concern around whether pregnant women should be concerned for the health of their babies if they contract COVID-19,” said researcher Dr. Kate Walker. “From our results, we are satisfied that the chance of newborn infection with COVID-19 is low. We would also stress that a vaginal birth and breastfeeding are safe for mothers who find themselves in these circumstances.” 

Keeping newborns safe

The researchers analyzed recent study results that included nearly 700 mothers and their newborns to understand the risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19. All of the mothers involved in the study had tested positive for COVID-19 before their babies were born. 

Ultimately, the researchers learned that the risk for mothers passing on the virus to their newborns was low, regardless of how the babies were delivered. When transmission did occur, newborns were asymptomatic. 

Nearly 370 babies were delivered via C-section, and of those, just over five percent tested positive for the coronavirus at birth. Similarly, nearly 300 babies were delivered naturally, and less than three percent of those babies had positive coronavirus results. 

The researchers emphasized that mothers shouldn’t worry about worsening their babies’ health conditions in the days that follow delivery and shouldn’t alter their plans for caring for their babies out of fear for their health. As Dr. Walker explained, breastfeeding remains a safe option for mothers and their babies, as the overall risks are relatively low. 

The researchers hope that these findings can bring expectant mothers some peace of mind as their delivery dates draw closer. 

“I am happy to see that data continues to be reassuring, supporting keeping the mother/infant pair together after birth, underlining that while occasional postnatal infant infection is detected, clinical course tends to be mild,” said researcher Dr. Jeannette Comeau. 

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