COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 31 pregnant women in the US according to the CDC’s most recent update yesterday. As more cases of the virus occur in expectant mothers, more data becomes available. It has also been found that not only does COVID-19 present a higher risk to pregnant women than previously thought, but data is showing that there may also be a risk to a woman’s unborn baby as well.
Rapidly Evolving Information
A study published as recently as last month found no transmission of the virus from a pregnant mom to her fetus. However, Italian researchers reported on the findings of a study that looked at 31 women from three Italian hospitals who had COVID-19 when they gave birth. They reported on their results July 9 at an online medical conference. The full study has not yet been published, and only an abstract is currently available.
The Italian researchers found evidence of the virus that causes COVID-19 in several infant’s umbilical cord blood samples, one placenta, as well as vaginal swabs of the mothers. The virus was also found in one woman’s breast milk.
The study was led by Claudio Fenizia, an assistant professor of immunology at the University of Milan. He acknowledged that the research is preliminary, and there were variables making it premature to change how COVID-19 positive pregnant women are cared for at this time. Further data is needed. There are currently several other ongoing studies.
Two mothers in the study gave birth to babies who tested positive for the virus. Both infants recovered quickly. One of those infants had a negative test two days later. The negative test so soon after birth indicates that the infant began producing antibodies to fight the virus before birth. An additional COVID-related risk when a pregnant woman is infected is premature birth.
Currently, it is believed that the primary risk of transmission to a newborn remains through respiratory droplets from their infected mother. If an infant’s mother has COVID-19, the CDC recommends that her infant be tested at 24-hours of age. If an infant test results are negative, they should be tested again at 48-hours of age. If testing is not available for an infant, the CDC advises they be presumed positive for the virus.
They also recommend that if a mother is positive or it is suspected that she has the virus, a temporary separation of mother and child should be considered. If separation is not possible or refused, the mother should wear a mask and practice hand hygiene during all contact with her child.
The CDC reports that there have been more than 11,000 pregnant women diagnosed with COVID-19, with over 3,200 of those women requiring hospitalization. As the cases have increased, more information has become available to guide recommendations. The CDC site states that pregnant women who contract COVID-19 are more likely to require hospitalization, have an increased risk of admission to an Intensive Care unit, and need to be put on a ventilator than women who are not pregnant.
Pregnant women are encouraged to keep going to their prenatal appointments. They should try to limit interactions with other people due to the risk of acquiring the virus from asymptomatic individuals. Expectant mothers should continue to observe the practices that help minimize their risk of acquiring the virus, including social distancing, thorough hand-washing, and wearing a mask when they are around people outside of their household members.
Pregnant Women COVID — Sources
Los Angeles Times – More evidence suggests the coronavirus can spread from mother to baby in utero
CDC – Evaluation and Management Considerations for Neonates At Risk for COVID-19
CDC – Data on COVID-19 during Pregnancy (Updated July 9, 2020)
CDC – COVID-19: If You Are Pregnant, Breastfeeding, or Caring for Young Children