Covid CAN spread from mothers to babies, study confirms

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Covid CAN spread from infected mothers to babies – but it only occurs in 2% of such pregnancies, study finds

  • Birmingham University experts looked at babies born to Covid-positive mothers
  • Estimate around one in 60 babies born to infected mothers test positive for virus
  • But just one in 100 believed to catch virus while in womb or during childbirth

Women can pass Covid on to their babies but the phenomenon is rare, a study has confirmed. 

Birmingham University researchers estimate roughly 2 per cent of babies born to infected mothers test positive for the virus shortly after birth.

This can be passed on in the womb, during labour or delivery, or during the first few days of a baby’s life, they said.  

Experts reviewed nearly 500 international studies involving 18,000 children born to Covid-positive mothers during the pandemic. 

University of Birmingham researchers looked at 14,000 babies born to Covid-positive mothers in Europe and the Americas up to August last year for the study (stock image)

University of Birmingham researchers looked at 14,000 babies born to Covid-positive mothers in Europe and the Americas up to August last year for the study (stock image)

Just 1.8 per cent went on to test positive for the virus, highlighting the ‘low risk’ of mothers passing on the virus. 

But further analysis suggested just a tiny fraction of those likely caught the virus in the womb. 

When proper preventive steps are taken after a mother tests positive, such as the use of face masks, ‘infection of newborn babies is unlikely’, they concluded. 

Mothers can pass Covid antibodies onto their babies via breastmilk for up to 10 MONTHS, study finds 

New mothers who survive Covid can pass antibodies onto their babies through their breastmilk for up to 10 months, an American study suggests.

Researchers collected milk donated by 75 women who had recovered from the virus and screened them for the virus-fighting proteins.  

They found 88 per cent of them tested positive for an antibody that blocks the virus from causing infection in the respiratory tract.

Further lab tests revealed the majority of Covid-positive milk samples neutralised the virus, suggesting breastfed children gain at least partial protection. 

Academics from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York said further work is being done to see if immunity can be passed on via breastmilk after vaccination.

The study was carried out in March, before vaccines were being routinely offered to pregnant American women or females of childbearing age. 

It follows a study last week which found pregnant women who have a Covid vaccine pass on their protection to their unborn babies in the womb.

Previous studies have detected pieces of the virus in the placenta, amniotic fluid — which surrounds babies in the womb — vaginal fluid and breast milk. 

The study — published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) — confirms previous research suggesting Covid could be passed on to babies.

Academics reviewed data from 472 global studies, which looked at data on 952 mothers and 18,237 babies. 

Among the positive cases studied, there was data on 592 babies which suggested they may have picked up the virus from their mothers.

There were 14 documented mother-to-child transmissions.

In affluent countries, like the US, the risk of mother-to-baby transmission was below 0.1 per cent. 

In a linked editorial, Catherine McLean Pirkle, an associate professor at the University of Hawaii, wrote: ‘Overall, findings from this review seem reassuring.

‘Although the results indicate that mother-to-child transmission is possible in utero during the antenatal period, during labour or delivery (intrapartum), and after delivery (postpartum), rates of positivity among infants born to mothers with Sars-Cov-2 are low.

‘Furthermore, in affluent world regions such as North America, positivity among exposed infants appears to be extremely rare (0.1 per cent).

‘Combined, the results suggest that when proper preventive measures are taken during intrapartum and early postpartum periods, such as consistent and appropriate use of personal protective equipment, infection of newborn babies is unlikely.’

Ms Pirkle said just seven instances of the virus being passed on during pregnancy were identified, indicating that ‘in utero transmission is possible but exceedingly rare’.

After babies are born, infections can potentially develop from a ‘variety of exposures’ but are still rare, she added.

There was no association between breastfeeding and infection in newborns.

While the study suggests mothers rarely pass on Covid to their children, medics said having the virus in pregnancy can still pose a risk, particularly if the mother is unvaccinated.

Other studies have suggested mothers who are vaccinated or have previously had Covid pass on Covid-fighting antibodies to their babies. 

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