A new study published today by journal Jama Pediatrics says that women tested positive for COVID-19 are less likely to pass on the infection to their babies during childbirth if precautions are followed.
"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, US.
Interim guidelines released in the absence of research had suggested that the COVID-19 positive mother be separated from the newborn and direct breastfeeding be avoided. The new study warrants that such extreme measures are not necessary.
"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.
The study is based on reports of 101 newborn babies born between March 13 and April 24, 2020, to COVID-19 positive mothers at Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital in New York. The study is from a time when New York served an epicentre for the spread of the virus with 9401 corona deaths as of 27th April 2020.
The newborn babies were roomed with their mothers and rested in cribs placed at a distance of 6 feet from the mother. Direct breastfeeding and skin to skin contact was promoted given the mothers wore masks and washed hands and breasts with soap and water. Mothers were educated about COVID-19, and those without complication after delivery were discharged early.
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.
"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.
Of the 101 new-borns, 2 tested positive for COVID-19. However, they did not show clinical evidence of infection. Physicians followed up with 55 newborns including the two tested positive for two weeks after birth. All the babies are in good health. The new study reassures that new-borns born to Covid positive mothers needn't be deprived of the clear benefits of breastfeeding, mother-infant contact, and delayed bathing.
(The story is edited by Anan Ashraf with IANS inputs)