COVID-19 is not transmitted from pregnant mothers to newborns

Four babies born in a hospital in Wuhan did not show signs of infection and remain healthy today.


According to a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Pediatrics, it doesn’t appear that the coronavirus is transmittable from pregnant mothers to newborns at birth. This is the second study that confirms mothers infected with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) during pregnancy did not affect their babies.

Four full-term, singleton infants were born to pregnant women who tested positive for COVID-19 in the city of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, China, where the disease was first identified.

None of the newborn children built up any severe symptoms related to COVID-19, for example, fever or cough; however, all were at first isolated in neonatal intensive care units and fed formula. Three of the four tested negative for the respiratory infection following a throat swab, while the fourth child’s mom declined authorization for the test.

One newborn did experience a minor breathing issue for three days that was treated by non-invasive mechanical ventilation. Two babies, including the one with a respiratory problem, did have body rashes that eventually disappeared on their own.

Co-author Dr. Yalan Liu at Huazhong University of Science and Technology said, “It’s impossible to conclude whether there’s a connection between these other medical issues and COVID-19. We are not sure the rash was due to the mother’s COVID-19 infection.”

In a past study, scientists analyzed nine pregnant mothers infected with COVID-19. They found no evidence that the viral infection could pass to the child. All nine births were done by cesarean section. Three of the four pregnancies in the current study were also brought to term by C-section.

Study co-author Dr. Yalan Liu at Huazhong University of Science and Technology said, “To avoid infections caused by perinatal and postnatal transmission, our obstetricians think that C-section may be safer. Only one pregnant mother adopted vaginal delivery because of the onset of the labor process. The baby was normal. Maybe vaginal delivery is OK. It needs further study.”

The authors noted, “Further investigations into other aspects of potential COVID-19 infection in newborns and children are needed. For example, the sensitivity of the current diagnostic test for detecting the virus is about 71 percent, so they suggest evaluating its reliability in children.”

Scientists are continually gathering additional samples from newborns, including placenta, amniotic fluid, neonatal blood, and gastric fluid, among others, to detect possible receptors for the virus.

Journal Reference

  1. Chen, Y., Peng, H., Wang, L., Zhao, Y., Zeng, L., Gao, H., & Liu, Y. (2020). Infants Born to Mothers With a New Coronavirus (COVID-19). Frontiers in Pediatrics, 8, 534766. DOI: 10.3389/fped.2020.00104
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