The outbreak of a new coronavirus, COVID-19, has prompted many expectant parents to wonder whether it can pass from mother to child during pregnancy. Until recently, limited information was available regarding the effects of COVID-19 on pregnant women and their babies, however initial studies appear to be positive. 

Urgent questions have been raised as to whether the virus develops different symptoms in pregnant women, whether it can be vertically transmitted (pass from mum to baby) and pose risk to the fetus or whether mothers are more likely to undergo a pre-mature labour as a result of contracting COVID-19.

However,  a recent study by Huang and colleagues at “The Lancet” shows reassuring results, reporting that no intrauterine fetal infection occurred as a result of COVID-19 infection during a late stage of pregnancy. Here’s what we know so far…

What did the study involve?

The aim of the study was to investigate the clinical features of pregnant women with confirmed COVID-19 pneumonia and examine the vertical transmission potential of the disease from mother to baby. Between January 20th – 31st  2020, nine pregnant women were admitted to Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, China, with COVID-19 symptoms.

All nine pregnant women were in their third trimester and all underwent caesarean section after being tested positive for pneumonia with acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-Cov-2). Amniotic fluid samples were collected from the nine patients at the time of delivery. Following birth, cord blood and neonatal throat swabs were collected immediately along with breastmilk samples after the mothers’ first lactation.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease that has never been encountered before. The coronavirus pneumonia was first reported in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, December 2019, followed by an outbreak across China and other parts of the world.

The type of pneumonia caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus is so infectious that the ongoing outbreak has been declared by the World Health Organisation as “global public health emergency”.

What were the results?

The results from the study show that all samples tested negative for the virus, demonstrating that no intrauterine fetal infections were present as a result of COVID-19 during the later stages of pregnancy.

The study also revealed that none of the women contracted severe pneumonia and no fatalities were reported from either the mothers or babies.

As such, there is currently no evidence to suggest that development of COVID-19 pneumonia in the third trimester of pregnancy leads to intrauterine transmission.

Whilst the study featured only a small sample, it provides promising and indeed, reassuring results for expectant mums who may contract the disease. The findings provide important understanding of the clinical characteristics and vertical transmission potential of COVID-19 infection in pregnant women.

Are there other studies investigating treatments for COVID-19?

Many studies exist which are looking into different ways to treat the infectious disease and to stop further spreading. There have in fact been a number of studies investigating the use of umbilical cord stem cells in the treatment of COVID-19.

A study released on February 5th, 2020 is investigating the safety and efficiency of Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) therapy for pneumonia patients infected with COVID-19. While the results are not yet known, numerous clinical trials continue to test the effectiveness of this regenerative approach to pneumonia on patients infected with COVID-19 in the hope of preventing further spread of the disease. 

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of coronavirus include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. To find out more about the symptoms of COVID-19, please visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

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References

World Health Organisation, (2020) “Coronavirus”, available at:
https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus

News Dio, (2020) “There is no evidence of vertical intrauterine transmission of coronavirus disease 2019”, available at:
https://newsdio.com/there-is-no-evidence-of-vertical-intrauterine-transmission-of-coronavirus-disease-2019/58570/

Chen et al, (2020) “Clinical characteristics and intrauterine vertical transmission potential of COVID-19 infection in nine pregnant women: a retrospective review of medical records”, available at:
https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30360-3/fulltext

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