Covid-19: Risk of transmission of the virus to newborns is very low

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The risk of transmission of the new coronavirus, responsible for covid-19, from the mother to the newborn is very low if basic health safety measures are ensured, concluded a study released today.

According to the results of a study published today in the scientific journal “JAMA Pediatrics”, mothers infected with SARS-CoV-2 rarely transmit the virus to the newborn if basic infection control procedures, such as wearing a mask and hygiene, are fulfilled.

The joint investigation between Columbia University Medical Center and Morgan Stanley Pediatric Hospital in New York analyzed the results of the first 101 babies of women with covid-19 born in two city hospitals between March 13 and April 24, 2020.

“Our findings should reassure pregnant women with covid-19 because basic infection control measures during and after delivery have protected newborns from infection,” said one of the researchers and specialist in maternal-fetal medicine at the medical center, Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, cited in a statement.

After delivery, these basic measures consisted, above all, in the use of a mask by the hospital team, who fulfilled social distances whenever possible.

The mothers were hospitalized for the shortest time necessary, if they had not had complications, and always in private rooms, which they shared with the babies, placed in protective cribs almost two meters away from the mother’s bed.

According to Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, in both hospitals, direct breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact between the mother and the baby was promoted, provided that the use of a mask and hygiene were carried out.

“During the pandemic, we continue to do what we normally do to promote bonding and the development of healthy newborns, while taking some additional precautions to minimize the risk of exposure to the virus,” he explained.

Despite this close contact, the risk of transmission of the new coronavirus between mothers and babies proved to be very low and only two of the 101 newborns tested positive, but with no symptoms.

According to the researchers, promoting direct breastfeeding and contact at the two hospitals that were part of the study contradicted the provisional guidelines of several health and pediatric organizations.

Some of the guidelines recommend, for example, the separation of mothers and newborns during hospitalization, bathing the baby as early as possible (as opposed to doing it after the usual minimum period of 24 hours) and discourage breastfeeding direct.

“These recommendations were made in the absence of data on the rate of transmission from mothers to the newborn and are based on experience with the transmission of other infectious diseases,” explained Morgan Stanley pediatrician Dani Dumitriu, who led the investigation.

On the other hand, he added, there is scientific evidence that points to the developmental benefits of babies from early breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact with the mother and in light of the latest data on the risk of transmission, these restrictions are not necessary.

“We think it is particularly important that mothers with covid-19 have the opportunity to breastfeed their newborns directly”, added Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, also mentioning that breast milk can even protect newborns from various pathologies and against infection with the new coronavirus.

“Most studies have not found SARS-CoV-2 in breast milk, but it has already been concluded that breast milk contains antibodies against the virus,” he stressed.

During the first two weeks of life, the 101 babies were followed up by doctors and all continued well, including the two newborns who tested positive.



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