Any numbers the Centers for Disease Control can lay hands on, that agency will crunch, mash and hash to a fare-thee-well. As always, the fate of newborns is of particular interest. There is some indication that a prospective mother who tests positive for COVID-19 might be more likely than a non-pregnant woman to wind up in the ICU. For the benefit of agencies who try their best to learn from statistics, a whole special report form exists for pregnant women.
Because so much else is going on with the still-mysterious novel coronavirus, interpreting the raw data is a demanding job. Here are a few suggestive excerpts from an article on the subject, by Meredith Wadman. As always, the good news mingles with the bad:
Data on pregnancy and COVID-19 are woefully incomplete… Fetal infections later in pregnancy appear to be rare, and experts are cautiously optimistic that the coronavirus won’t warp early fetal development… Pregnancy does appear to make women’s bodies more vulnerable to severe COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.
Birth and breastfeeding in the pandemic
In the days before COVID-19, the conscientiously-run labor and delivery unit was tasked with the obligation to “strike a balance between patient safety and celebrating the birthday party.” They had it down pretty well, especially when it came to finding ways to safely include fathers. Now, the stark question is whether even babies and mothers can coexist safely. Here is Dr. Jeff Livingston on why this is so crucial:
The first 60 minutes of life is known as the “golden hour.” This period immediately after delivery contributes to infant temperature regulation, reduces stress for mom and baby, improves mother-baby bonding, and increases breastfeeding success.
Considering that they are born with immature immune systems, babies are getting a raw deal from Nature. Add to that a positive-testing mother, and the situation gets dicey. Of the children born to mothers who tested positive, somewhere between 2% and 5% of them have tested positive within their first few days on earth. Some, including the famous Mexican triplets, have been born testing positive. Babies less than a month old have needed to be hospitalized because of severe infection.
There is a National Registry for Surveillance and Epidemiology of Perinatal COVID-19 Infection, on which the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) bases its guidelines. Currently, if precautions are taken against droplet transmission, it is considered safe for an uninfected baby to room with its infected mother. There is, as far can be determined, no risk reduction gained by separating them.
Dr. Jeff Livingston summarizes the AAP guidelines as social distancing, face covers and hand hygiene, and specifies that “Mothers are asked to maintain a six-feet separation when not providing hands-on care.” The same precautions are required for non-infected birth partners or family members.
Childhood Obesity News has discussed the virtues of breastfeeding, which is believed to give baby a slight advantage in avoiding childhood obesity. Remnants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have been found in breast milk, but there is no evidence that the active virus can be secreted. There is also no evidence that the baby gains any advantage of protective antibodies.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Data on COVID-19 during Pregnancy,” CDC.gov, 09/03/20
Source: “Why pregnant women face special risks from COVID-19,” ScienceMag.org, 08/04/20
Source: “The Latest Covid-19 Recommendations for New Moms and Babies,” Medium.com, 08/10/20
Image by Marco Verch/CC BY 2.0