Very low risk to newborns from moms with COVID-19, finds study

October 12, 2020

NEW YORK, NY --Mothers with SARS-CoV-2 infection rarely transmit the virus to their newborns when basic infection-control practices are followed, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital. The findings--the most detailed data available on the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission between moms and their newborns--suggest that more extensive measures like separating COVID-19-positive mothers from their newborns and avoiding direct breastfeeding may not be warranted.

The study was published online today in JAMA Pediatrics.

"Our findings should reassure expectant mothers with COVID-19 that basic infection-control measures during and after childbirth--such as wearing a mask and engaging in breast and hand hygiene when holding or breastfeeding a baby--protected newborns from infection in this series," says Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, MD, MSc, the Ellen Jacobson Levine and Eugene Jacobson Professor of Women's Health in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, a maternal-fetal medicine expert at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and a senior author of the paper.

Basic Infection-Prevention Measures Reduced COVID-19 Risk in Newborns

The researchers examined outcomes in the first 101 newborns born to COVID-19-positive mothers at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital or NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital from March 13 to April 24, 2020.

To reduce the risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to newborns after delivery, hospital staff practiced social distancing, wore masks, and placed COVID-positive moms in private rooms. The hospitals provided the mothers with educational materials about COVID-19 and shortened hospital stays for all mothers without complications from delivery.

Most of the newborns roomed with their mothers, including during the first postpartum checkup. (Some were admitted to the newborn intensive care unit for non-COVID-related health reasons.) Infants who roomed with their moms were placed in protective cribs six feet away from the mothers' beds when resting. Direct breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact with babies were strongly encouraged, provided the moms wore masks and washed hands and breasts with soap and water.

"During the pandemic, we continued to do what we normally do to promote bonding and development in healthy newborns, while taking a few extra precautions to minimize the risk of exposure to the virus," says Gyamfi-Bannerman.

Only two of the newborns tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 but had no clinical evidence of illness. (The researchers were unable to pinpoint how the babies became infected.) Physicians followed up with about half of the infants, including the two that tested positive for the virus, during the first two weeks of life, and all remained well.

Data Support Breastfeeding, Skin-to-Skin Contact with Baby Even if Mom Has COVID-19

A number of pediatric and health organizations have released interim guidelines for pregnant women with SARS-CoV-2, recommending the separation of mothers and newborns during their hospital stay, no direct breastfeeding, and bathing newborns as soon as possible. (Normally, newborns are bathed after a minimum of 24 hours of life because it interferes with bonding, breastfeeding and increases the risk of dangerously low temperatures and blood sugars.)

"These recommendations were made in the absence of data on rates of mother-to-newborn SARS-CoV-2 transmission and are based on experience with mother-newborn transmission of other infectious diseases," says lead author Dani Dumitriu, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics in psychiatry at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and a pediatric newborn hospitalist in the Division of Child and Adolescent Health at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital. "But some of the recommendations conflict with what we know about the developmental benefits of early breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact. Our study shows that these measures may not be necessary for healthy newborns with COVID-positive moms."

"We think it's particularly important that mothers with COVID-19 have the opportunity to directly breastfeed their newborns," Gyamfi-Bannerman says. "Breast milk is known to protect newborns against numerous pathogens, and it may help protect newborns against infection with SARS-CoV-2. Most studies have not found SARS-CoV-2 in breast milk, and breast milk has been found to contain antibodies against the virus."
The study is titled, "Outcomes of newborns born to mothers with SARS-CoV-2 infection at a large medical center in New York City."

The other contributors are: Ukachi N. Emeruwa (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Erin Hanft (Columbia), Grace V. Liao (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Elizabeth Ludwig (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Lauren Walzer (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Brittany Arditi (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Minna Saslaw (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Maria Andrikopoulou (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Tessa Scripps (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Caitlin Baptiste (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia) Adrita Khan (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Noelle Breslin (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), David Rubenstein (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Lynn L. Simpson, (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Margaret H. Kyle (Columbia), Alexander M. Friedman (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Daniel S. Hirsch (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Russell S. Miller (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Cristina R. Fernández (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Karin M. Fuchs (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia) M. Kathleen Keown (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Melissa E. Glassman (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Ashley Stephens (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Archana Gupta (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Sally Sultan (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Caroline Sibblies (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Susan Whittier (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Wanda Abreu (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Francis Akita (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Anna Penn (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Mary E. D'Alton (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Jordan S. Orange (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Dena Goffman (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), Lisa Saiman (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia), and Melissa S. Stockwell (NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia).

No funding was obtained for this work. The authors report no conflicts of interest pertinent to this work.

Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Related Science Articles from Brightsurf:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.

Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.

World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.

Read More: Science News and Science Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to