A study finds new moms with COVID-19 do not need to be separated from their babies after birth — but they should wear masks
COVID positive new mothers do not necessarily need to be separated from their babies after birth to prevent transmission. This emerges from the most detailed study on the subject to date.
Good hygiene, mask-wearing, and social distancing while resting seem to keep babies safe while allowing them to breastfeed and have skin contact.
While two of the 101 babies examined tested positive for COVID, they were asymptomatic and healthy. Previous research has shown that even strict postpartum prevention measures don't always prevent transmission.
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Separating a new mother with the coronavirus from her baby immediately after birth may not be necessary to protect the child from COVID-19. This is the result of the most detailed study to date on the transmission of the novel coronavirus between mothers and babies.
In fact, when less is known about the risks that COVID-positive mothers can pose to their newborns, the tactics used in some hospitals, as directed by some child and health organizations, can do more harm than good, for example by discouraging breastfeeding . The study published today in JAMA Pediatrics suggests.
"Some of the [earlier] recommendations contradict what we know about the developmental benefits of early breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact," said lead author Dr. Dani Dumitriu, assistant professor of pediatrics in psychiatry at Columbia University's Vagelos College of Physicians and surgeon, said in a press release.
"Our study shows these measures may not be necessary for healthy newborns with COVID-positive mothers."
Only 2 out of 101 infants examined were COVID positive but had no symptoms and remained healthy
For the study, researchers looked at 101 infants born with COVID-19 between March 13 and April 24 in two New York Presbyterian hospitals.
Most mothers and babies were not separated after birth, although some were needed, for example, when the babies needed intensive care due to non-COVID-related issues.
For those who stayed together, the hospital implemented other measures to prevent the transmission of COVID, including For example, the couple was housed in private rooms where the babies were rested in protective beds six feet away.
Hospital workers also practiced social distancing, wearing masks, and discharging the women earlier than usual if they didn't have complications that required an extended stay.
Mothers were also urged to breastfeed and maintain skin-to-skin contact while wearing masks and washing their hands and breasts.
Two of the newborns tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 but had no symptoms. Two weeks later, they remained in good health.
"Our findings should reassure expectant mothers with COVID-19 that basic infection control measures during and after birth ... protected newborns in this series from infection," said lead author Dr. Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, a maternal-fetal medicine expert at New York-Presbyterian said in the press release.
"We think it's especially important that mothers with COVID-19 have the ability to directly breastfeed their newborns," she added, noting that breast milk can protect newborns from the coronavirus.
It is unclear how the two babies with COVID contracted the disease
Most research to date suggests that COVID-19 is unlikely to be transmitted in the uterus.
For example, one small study found that even mothers with placental damage, presumably due to the virus, could not transmit the virus to their infants.
While it is possible that the infants in the current study contracted after birth, there is no guarantee that stricter preventive measures would have prevented it. A trio of studies from March 26 showed that some babies still tested positive for COVID-19 when rigorous post-birth prevention measures were taken.
As the current study confirms, infants are fine even if they test positive for COVID-19. A March 17 study of 2,000 children in China diagnosed with COVID-19 found that just over 10% of all infants were in severe condition.
As doctors learn more about how the virus affects pregnant women and their babies, experts recommend women do whatever they can to overcome their fear of the unknown.
One report showed that pregnant women and young mothers who are already prone to depression and anxiety currently have remarkably high rates - 41% and 72%, respectively - of these symptoms.
"There will be a lot of emotions, some of which will be sadness, grief, and the unknown," said Dr. Jane van Dis, a gynecologist who serves as medical director for the telemedicine network Maven, previously told Business Insider. "Just know that connecting with the people who support women is critical to mental health."
What pregnant women should know about the coronavirus
Experts are calling for an "urgent investigation" into the high rate of pregnant women of skin color who have been hospitalized with coronavirus
Three studies suggest that pregnant women could transmit the coronavirus into the uterus, contradicting previous research
Pregnant women and young mothers suffer from “shocking” anxiety and depression rates during the pandemic
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