It has been a year since COVID-19 broke into our lives, and although at first the news related to contagion in newborns was somewhat confusing, and the separation between infected mother and baby after birth even recommended, now it is known that vertical transmission is rare, and so is the infection of the newborn at the time of delivery or immediately afterwards.
Not surprisingly, according to some data from the Registry of the Spanish Society of Neonatology (seNeo) created in April 2020, so far more than 2,200 cases of babies born to mothers with COVID-19 have been documented, and only 100 have been infected after birth, with the majority developing mild to no symptoms.
As explained by Dr. Manuel Sanchez Luna, a prominent pediatrician and head of the neonatology program of Gregorio Maranon General University Hospital in Madrid and president of the Spanish Society of Neonatology (seNeo), the national recommendations that were published at the beginning of the pandemic were based on the Chinese guidelines and the ignorance that until then we had of the virus. Thus, the initial protocol indicated that if the mother was infected by SARS-CoV2 at the time of delivery, her baby should be separated immediately after birth, in addition to withdrawing breastfeeding. However, the seNeo immediately modified these recommendations after consulting with official entities such as the WHO and UNICEF and observing that there were no cases of infections in babies, neither during pregnancy, nor after delivery and postpartum.
So far 2,248 cases of babies born to mothers with COVID have been collected, of which more than 100 were infected after birth.
“In our registry, we do not see intrauterine virus transmission and if there is, it is very rare,” says Sánchez Luna, who also argues that several cases described would show that the placenta would act as a brake for the virus.
The first data that was recorded and published last October in ‘Frontiers in Pediatrics’ made reference to the first babies born in Spain who were infected after birth. In total, 40 cases were registered, of which the majority experienced mild symptoms, the severe symptoms being more typical of premature infants or newborns with concomitant pathologies.
The second study has just been published in the journal ‘Pediatrics ‘ and collects the data offered by 79 hospitals throughout Spain of 503 babies born to mothers with COVID (diagnosed during pregnancy or at the time of delivery), between March 8, 2020 and May 26, 2020.
Of these 503 babies, only 98 were hospitalized for clinical reasons, although in most cases they were premature babies or those suffering from other diseases independent of COVID-19. In any case, all the babies that were studied did well.
Skin to skin and breastfeeding is ok even if the mother is positive for COVID.
From the seNeo they insist once again that breastfeeding when the mother is positive for COVID is not only safe, but also beneficial, so suspension should not be recommended. These guidelines were already given by the WHO at the beginning of the pandemic, but subsequent studies have only reaffirmed these recommendations.
In addition, they clarify that other indications that were given at the beginning of the pandemic such as bathing the baby as soon as it is born have no scientific basis, in fact it is known to be counterproductive in the short and long term.
Therefore, if the mother is positive for COVID-19 at the time of delivery, recommended preventive and hygiene measures should be followed. Care givers should favor skin-to-skin contact from the moment of birth, carry out the delayed clamping of the umbilical cord and encourage the stay of mother and baby in the same room while practicing isolation from those around them.