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Transmission of Covid from mothers to newborns is ‘rare’

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The risk of women transmitting Covid-19 to their newborn babies is “low”, according to a new study.

The chance of transmitting the virus during pregnancy, childbirth or after the baby is born is less than 2%, the researchers said.

When proper preventive measures are taken after a mother tests positive, such as wearing face masks, “newborns are unlikely to be infected,” they concluded.

Expert-led academics from the University of Birmingham reviewed data from 472 global studies, which looked at data from 952 mothers and 18,237 babies.

Worldwide, just 1.8% of 14,271 babies born to mothers with Covid-19 tested positive, the study, published in The BMJ, found.

In the US, the risk appears to be “extremely rare” at only 0.1%.

In less affluent countries, the risk appears to be slightly higher, the researchers said.

Among the positive cases studied, there was data from 592 babies that suggested they might have contracted the virus from their mothers.

There were 14 documented mother-to-child transmissions.

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

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

“Furthermore, in affluent regions of the world such as North America, positivity among exposed infants appears to be extremely rare (0.1%).

“Combined, the results suggest that when proper preventive measures are taken during the intrapartum and early postpartum periods, such as consistent and appropriate use of personal protective equipment, newborns are unlikely to become infected.”

Ms Pirkle said only seven cases of transmission of the virus during pregnancy had been identified, indicating “transmission in the womb is possible but extremely rare”.

After babies are born, infections can potentially develop from a “variety of exposures” but are still rare, he added.

There was no association between breastfeeding and infection in the newborns.

While the study suggests that mothers rarely pass Covid to their children, doctors said having the virus during pregnancy can still pose a risk, especially if the mother is not vaccinated.

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