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COVID-19: New study provides reassuring news for pregnant women

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The results of a small study in the US is giving pregnant women some reassurance about giving birth during a pandemic. 

The study, published in the journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, found it’s possible but highly unlikely for mothers to pass coronavirus (COVID-19) onto their newborn.

But precautions still need to need to be taken. 

“We hope our study will provide some reassurance”

Dr Christine Salvatore, the study’s lead author, said: “We hope our study will provide some reassurance to new mothers that the risk of them passing Covid-19 to their babies is very low.

“However, larger studies are needed to better understand the risks of transmission from mother to child.”

The study monitored 120 babies with COVID-19 positive mothers at three New York hospitals. Of the 120 babies, none tested positive for the virus. 

During the study, mothers breastfed their babies while wearing a face mask and washing their hands frequently. They also shared a room. Babies used enclosed cribs, which were positioned about 2 metres from the mother’s bed. 

The results

  • 120 babies tested negative for COVID-19 after a nasal swab
  • One week later, 82 were tested, and all were negative
  • A fortnight after birth, 72 babies were tested again, and all were negative. 

Researchers noted the drop off in babies being tested, explaining that parents didn’t want to bring their newborns back for more testing during a pandemic.

Speaking to the BBC, Prof Marian Knight, who leads the UK’s national surveillance of COVID-19 in pregnancy, said the research is reassuring. 

“More than 1000 mothers with SARS-CoV-2 infection have given birth in the UK, and only 1-2% of their babies have had a positive test for SARS-CoV-2. Infection does not appear to cause severe illness in these babies.

“This small US study also indicates transmission of infection from mother to baby is uncommon with simple precautions such as the wearing of face masks by mums with Covid-19.”

Australian guidelines

The Royal Australian and NewZealand College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RANZOG), says women with a positive COVID-19 result can still breastfeed.

“At the moment, there is no evidence that the virus is carried in breastmilk and, therefore, the well-recognised benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of COVID-19 through breastmilk.” 

New mums can also stay with their babies after birth. 

“If the mother has COVID-19 infection, she should not be automatically separated from her baby, but should take enhanced precautions with general hygiene and consider a face mask when feeding,” they say.

NSW Health has similar advice. The website says if you and your baby are well, you can stay in a single room together. 

“Skin-to-skin contact at birth and breastfeeding will continue to be encouraged. But mothers and their support person who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 will need to protect their baby during any close contact by wearing a face mask, and washing your hands regularly for at least 14 days after birth, and while you remain infectious.”

The website also says you can “have your baby at least 1.5 metres away from you when you are not caring for him or her.”

While more research is still needed, the results from this new study does offer some good news.

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