Coronavirus: Can pregnant mothers infect their children with COVID-19?

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The recent report of a woman infected with coronavirus successfully undergoing a Cesarean section operation in Saudi Arabia has prompted questions about whether pregnant women can transmit the COVID-19 virus to their children.

Thankfully, there is currently no evidence of COVID-19 being transmitted by a pregnant woman to an unborn child.

However, only a few studies have been done and more research is needed, say scientists.

Here are the answers to your questions about pregnancy and coronavirus.

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Can a pregnant woman transmit COVID-19 to her unborn child?

There have been no conclusive studies on whether a woman can transmit COVID-19 to her unborn child.

According to the most recent WHO release, the few studies that have been done suggest that transmission via pregnancy was not possible.

WHO added that the virus has not been found in samples of amniotic fluid or breastmilk –the most likely means of transmission.

Chinese scientists carried out a preliminary study in February that suggested the disease cannot be transmitted during pregnancy, but noted more research was needed.

Are pregnant women at higher risk from COVID-19?

“It is reassuring that so far, the evidence suggests that pregnant women with no underlying conditions, and their babies, are at no more risk of contracting coronavirus than other individuals,” said Dr Jo Mountfield, in a video published by the UK-based Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists.

The WHO concurred that at present there is no evidence of pregnant women being at higher risk of severe illness than anyone else, but again noted that research is still underway.

Pregnant women can also be susceptible to respiratory infections because their immune systems undergo changes, added the WHO, warning that they should take steps to protect themselves against the virus and stay in contact with medical officials.

Do pregnant women infected with COVID-19 need to have a Cesarean section birth?

No, says the WHO.

“The mode of birth should be individualized and based on a woman’s preferences alongside obstetric indications.”

Should mothers touch their baby if they are infected with COVID-19?

The WHO says that mothers should keep in close contact with babies and continue to breastfeed.

It advises mothers to:
• Breastfeed safely, with good respiratory hygiene;
• Hold the newborn skin-to-skin, and
• Share a room with the baby

Wash hands before and after touching the baby, and keep all surfaces clean.

However, the WHO noted that “transmission after birth via contact with infectious respiratory secretions is a concern.”

On the whole, children have made up a small minority of cases of coronavirus globally, the majority of which have been mild and shown no symptoms.

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