New research adds to the growing body of evidence that women who have Covid-19 are less likely to pass on the infection to their babies during childbirth if precautions are in place. The findings, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, suggest that more extensive measures like separating Covid-19-positive mothers from their newborns and avoiding direct breastfeeding may not be warranted.
"Our findings should reassure expectant mothers with Covid-19 that basic infection-control measures during and after childbirth--such as wearing a mask and engaging in breast and hand hygiene when holding or breastfeeding a baby--protected newborns from infection in this series," said study author Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman from Columbia University in the US.
The researchers examined outcomes in the first 101 newborns born to Covid-19-positive mothers at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital.
To reduce the risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to newborns after delivery, hospital staff practised social distancing, wore masks, and placed Covid-positive moms in private rooms.
The hospitals provided the mothers with educational materials about Covid-19 and shortened hospital stays for all mothers without complications from delivery.
Most of the newborns roomed with their mothers, including during the first postpartum checkup. Infants who roomed with their moms were placed in protective cribs six feet away from the mothers' beds when resting.
Direct breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact with babies were strongly encouraged, provided the moms wore masks and washed hands and breasts with soap and water.
"During the pandemic, we continued to do what we normally do to promote bonding and development in healthy newborns, while taking a few extra precautions to minimize the risk of exposure to the virus," Gyamfi-Bannerman said.
Only two of the newborns tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 but had no clinical evidence of illness. Physicians followed up with about half of the infants, including the two that tested positive for the virus, during the first two weeks of life, and all remained well.
A number of pediatric and health organizations have released interim guidelines for pregnant women with SARS-CoV-2, recommending the separation of mothers and newborns during their hospital stay, no direct breastfeeding, and bathing newborns as soon as possible
"These recommendations were made in the absence of data on rates of mother-to-newborn SARS-CoV-2 transmission and are based on experience with the mother-newborn transmission of other infectious diseases," said study lead author Dani Dumitriu.
"But some of the recommendations conflict with what we know about the developmental benefits of early breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact. Our study shows that these measures may not be necessary for healthy newborns with Covif-positive moms," Dumitriu added.