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Will Babies Born to Mothers that had Covid be More Likely to Catch the Virus?

July 23, 2021

Giving birth is something that brings happiness and joy to mothers and families, but with Covid still present there is an inherent fear that newborns will be affected by the virus.

The good news is that of the studies done so far, data shows that most babies won’t get Covid-- if they do they’re typically asymptomatic and/or don’t have the physical symptoms that would be similar to what an adult may experience.

There are still precautions that every expecting mother should do, along with some other facts to understand about Covid and newborns so if you want to learn more about what scientists are saying about the virus and infants then keep reading!

What the Science Says

Scientists around the world have been looking at how the Coronavirus has come to affect newborns.

A mother in a knit sweater is holding a baby to her chest.
Studies being conducted all over the world are looking at whether or not babies are negatively affected by their mothers if she has tested positive for Covid-19 at the time the baby is born.

One of the most popular studies regarding Covid and newborns so far is one that was done in Sweden.

During the first year of the pandemic, a population-based study was done on almost 90,000 births to understand how the virus may affect newborn babies. It was found that a total of 2,322 babies were born to mothers who tested positive for Covid-- only 21 of those babies tested positive for the virus at some point within the first 28 days of the newborn period. It was observed that those 21 infants displayed little to no symptoms.

Of those babies who have gotten Covid, it is understood that transmission of the virus is thought to occur through respiratory droplets from mothers or others who have the infection and come in contact with the child.

Overall, it appears that evidence is suggesting that Covid infections among newborns is uncommon. However, if a baby happens to get Covid they typically have asymptomatic infections or a mild case that does not require any sort of respiratory support-- the child will recover, essentially.

Despite these facts, it is still recommended that babies get tested if they are born to a mother who has tested positive with Covid, or if she has come in contact with someone who has the virus. Regardless of the symptoms the mother may be showing, a child should be tested at approximately 24 hours of age. If those initial test results come back negative or inconclusive, then another test should be done at 48 hours of age. These times are ideal for testing because if done too soon there could be false positives or false negatives.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that all infants born to mothers with a suspected or confirmed case of Covid should be treated as though they too have the virus until test results may prove otherwise.

Mothers and their babies who are suspected to have Covid, or tested positive for Covid, should be separated from other healthy mothers and infants in order to avoid any further spread of the illness.

This leads to a discussion about whether to leave the newborn in the care of the mother if she has the virus. It is suggested to leave the decision up to the mother, if she feels comfortable caring for the child during the time of her illness then it is recommended that she engages in active hand washing techniques and should wear a mask within six feet of her child.

Separation of the mother and newborn is not recommended, unless the condition of the child warrants any sort of special attention from the hospital. This is a crucial time for the mother and child as it encourages the facilitation of breast-feeding and other mother-newborn bonding moments.

Caring for Your Child If You Have Covid-19

Some mothers who have Covid are worried about how to properly care for their child if they have the virus.

A pregnant women in pink holds her stomach and a pair of baby shoes.
Expecting mothers take all the steps to prepare themselves for when their baby is born-- as Covid is still prevalent there is a need to prepare for what happens if Covid finds its way into the delivery room.

If you are in isolation for Covid, or if you want to avoid the possibility of contracting Covid after you take your baby home, there are a few things you can do to keep you and your new baby safe.

  • Stay home as much as possible to avoid any contact with the virus
  • If you share your home, try to avoid contact with those people and/or wear a mask around the house.
  • Finding a caregiver who is healthy and not at an increased risk for severe illness can be a lot of help in caring for your newborn.
  • A caregiver might not be in the cards for you, so if you feel well enough, you can care for your newborn as long as you wash your hands before touching your baby and/or wear a mask within six feet of your child.
  • Others who are in the house with you and your child should take precautions to isolate as much as possible during this time.

Breastfeeding is an encouraged practice between mother and newborn, so if you do have Covid and choose to breastfeed be sure to practice safe hand washing techniques and wear a mask around the child.

If you stop breastfeeding during the time of your illness, here are some tips to follow to help you restart the process:

  • Use your own breast pump, not one that is shared with others, if it is viable.
  • Wear a mask.
  • Wash your hands before touching any of the breastfeeding materials for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
  • Clean all parts of the pump after each use- especially all those parts that come in contact with breast milk.

It is also important to note that you should never place a mask or face shield on your newborn. These materials could increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or possible suffocation or strangulation. Babies naturally move around a lot-- this movement could allow those mask materials to block their nose and mouth.

Overall, if you’re an expecting mother that is concerned about the safety of your child during this time, it is important to take those isolation precautions to help keep you from getting the virus. As your child is born, their ability to contact the virus then becomes less likely as you limit their contact with outsiders.

If you happen to become exposed to Covid and test positive for the virus, don’t freight because most babies are not likely to contact the virus-- and if they do, their recovery rate is significantly high. Regardless, consider the safety of you and your baby as you make decisions regarding exposure to Covid.


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