COVID-19: Can it Be Transmitted from Pregnant Mother to Infant

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unsettling time for everyone, especially an infected pregnant woman who fears passing the virus on to her child.

It’s challenging enough to endure maternity during ordinary times, and with the dangers of the coronavirus disease looming, many mothers-to-be are even more overcome by worry. Is vertical transmission of this disease possible from mother to child?

Early studies on pregnant women with COVID-19 pneumonia found no evidence of babies acquiring the virus (as of February in Wuhan, China).

However, new studies are shedding light on the possibility of vertical transmission of the viral agent from mom to child. Investigations are also on their way, exploring and considering the possibility of transferring the virus in-utero.

While latest science on the matter says that all babies born to COVID-19-infected mothers have survived and those with symptoms recovered without complications from the illness, experts are adamant in saying that prevention of the infection should be a priority. 

Vertical transmission of any disease from a pregnant woman to her child is possible during pregnancy (in-utero), during labor and delivery (as the baby descends through the mother’s birth canal), or immediately after birth (through breastfeeding or direct contact).

Mother-to-baby transmission of the COVID-19 pathogen may be possible according to recent studies. While there’s still no definitive proof to these findings, evidence suggest that there is potential for the disease to be transferred vertically following a close observation of over 33 babies born to infected mothers in China.

Overall, the infants showed generally mild symptoms, the most common being shortness of breath (seen in 4 out of the 33 babies—and the outcomes were good). However, three of the these newborns were found to be positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, one of whom became lethargic with a fever spike only a day after delivery and another, showing more worrisome symptoms like vomiting.

Tests that were repeated on the infants’ second and fourth days came back positive, but by day 6, anal and nasal swab samples showed no traces of the virus.

All in all, the babies that contracted COVID-19 (whether directly from their mothers or acquired through other means) had positive outcomes, and while there still isn’t hard evidence on vertical transmission from mom to child, experts agree that prevention is the best way to keep the unborn away from the claws of the virus. To know more details, explore our FAQ section.