Does COVID-19 Transmit From Birth Mother To Child?

by | Apr 10, 2020 | Adoptive Families Blog

Pregnant mom wonders about COVID-19 transmitting to her babyThere’s some hopeful news regarding the question of whether COVID-19 transmits from mother to child in utero or during birth. Current medical and scientific consensus, summed up by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), indicates that “mother-to-child transmission of coronavirus during pregnancy is unlikely.”
“The virus has not been detected in amniotic fluid, breast milk, or other maternal samples,” the CDC writes. (More on this below.) And while “a very small number of babies have tested positive for the virus shortly after birth,” the CDC continues, “it is unknown if these babies got the virus before or after birth.”

Adoption and COVID-19

Lifetime Adoption remains open and available for anyone who needs access to our wealth of open adoption resources. We’re ready to field questions from concerned birth mothers and prospective adoptive parents about SARS-CoV-2 — aka coronavirus or COVID-19.

We encourage birth mothers and potential adoptive families to continue connecting through our platforms. Please contact us with any questions. We are here 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

There is a lot of fear and uncertainty out there, plus a lot of misinformation. We are not doctors, and this information is not intended to be medical advice, which should only come from your medical provider.

Knowledge about the virus and pandemic continues to evolve, and the situation remains fluid. But here is what we know so far.

Pregnancy and COVID-19

COVID-19 is caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). As the CDC cautions, “COVID-19 is a new disease and we are still learning how it spreads, the severity of illness it causes, and to what extent it may spread in the United States.”

It’s important to remember that pregnant women undergo physical changes that could increase their risk of developing an infection. This is true whether the virus is influenza or coronavirus. Thus, it’s critical that pregnant women take precautions to protect themselves from infection.

The CDC recommends pregnant women avoid people who are sick or who have been exposed to COVID-19. They also emphasize common-sense precautions, such as washing hands often, disinfecting touched surfaces daily, and wearing a face mask for those times when it’s necessary to leave home.

Most medical sources encourage pregnant women to stay at home as much as possible, avoid touching their face, and practice social distancing. These are the same recommendations that everybody has been advised to follow.

Ongoing Studies About COVID-19 and Pregnancy

Studies are underway that should help provide additional insight and clarity into the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as it relates to mothers and their babies.

A March 27, 2020, story in the New York Times by science journalist Apoorva Mandavilli provides some examples.

“Newborns and babies have so far seemed to be largely unaffected by the coronavirus,” Mandavilli writes, “but three new studies suggest that the virus may reach the fetus in utero. Even in these studies, the newborns seemed only mildly affected, if at all — which is reassuring, experts said. And the studies are small and inconclusive on whether the virus does truly breach the placenta.”

However, according to Mandavilli, “in two of the new studies, published yesterday in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association), doctors found antibodies in newborns that recognize the virus, suggesting that it does get through to the fetus.”

Meanwhile, a study published in the medical journal The Lancet reported that nine pregnant women infected with the respiratory illness gave birth to babies who did not have the virus.

“Findings from this small group of cases,” the study’s authors wrote, “suggest that there is currently no evidence for intrauterine infection caused by vertical transmission in women who develop COVID-19 pneumonia in late pregnancy.”

Other studies, some with larger numbers of pregnant women, reported similar findings.

“At this point in the global pandemic of COVID-19 infection,” write the authors of a study published by NCBI, the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “there is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 undergoes intrauterine or transplacental transmission from infected pregnant women to their fetuses.”

Additional studies are already underway. Dr. Christina Chambers, a perinatal epidemiologist from the University of California San Diego, plans to study pregnant women infected with coronavirus, track them through delivery, and follow the children for one year.

Wuhan, China, and COVID-19 reports that three babies in China, where the first human cases of the virus were identified, have tested positive for coronavirus. However, it’s possible that the infants contracted the virus in the nursery after they were born or from their mother’s fingers. The infants had varying symptoms, and all three later tested negative for the virus.

As for birth mothers, Dr. John Smulian of the University of Florida’s College of Medicine, says the evidence thus far suggests that pregnant women are not more likely to get infected than other individuals. He also says “there is no evidence that pregnant women with COVID-19 have a more severe disease course than others.”

Some experts are recommending that mothers and newborns be separated after birth to limit the risk of exposure from COVID-19-positive moms.

Breastfeeding and COVID-19

Mothers are typically encouraged to breastfeed even when they are sick. However, the CDC reports that it does not know if mothers who have COVID-19 can transmit the coronavirus through their breast milk. As mentioned above, early studies show that the virus has not been detected in pregnant women who have COVID-19.

Guidance for breastfeeding mothers who have COVID-19 includes:

  • Washing hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching the baby
  • Wearing a face mask while breastfeeding
  • Washing hands before touching breast pumps or bottles
  • Cleaning bottles and pump parts thoroughly after each feeding
  • Permitting a family member or someone other than the mother to feed the baby from a bottle

As always, consult your doctor with any questions regarding COVID-19, public health, and your baby. If you think you may have a COVID-19 infection (symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath), don’t delay.

If you have a confirmed COVID-19 infection, be sure to self-quarantine. Even people with no symptoms can spread this infectious disease among vulnerable and higher risk members of the population or those with compromised immune systems.

Lifetime Adoption

Lifetime Adoption remains fully operational. We are here 24 hours a day for birth parents, adoptive parents, or anyone who may have questions.

Babies born to mothers who have the coronavirus disease or who contract it shortly after labor and delivery seem to ultimately thrive even if they exhibit mild symptoms. Of course, this often depends on having access to health care.

For more information, please click here.

Heather Featherston

Written by Heather Featherston

As Vice President of Lifetime Adoption, Heather Featherston holds an MBA and is passionate about working with those facing adoption, pregnancy, and parenting issues. Heather has conducted training for birth parent advocates, spoken to professional groups, and has appeared on television and radio to discuss the multiple aspects of adoption. She has provided one-on-one support to women and hopeful adoptive parents working through adoption decisions.

Since 2002, she has been helping pregnant women and others in crisis to learn more about adoption. Heather also trains and speaks nationwide to pregnancy clinics to effectively meet the needs of women who want to explore adoption for their child. Today, she continues to address the concerns women have about adoption and supports the needs of women who choose adoption for their child.

As a published author of the book Called to Adoption, Featherston loves to see God’s hand at work every day as she helps children and families come together through adoption.

Read more about Heather Featherston

You may also like…

National Infertility Awareness Week

National Infertility Awareness Week

Every April, people across the U.S. recognize National Infertility Awareness Week with webinars, fundraisers, rallies, support group sessions, and the Walk of Hope. The mission of the week is to change the conversation about infertility and empower those facing it....

6 Creative Adoption Fundraiser Ideas

6 Creative Adoption Fundraiser Ideas

  Many hopeful adoptive parents seek adoption financial assistance and hold fundraisers to help defray their adoption fees. And there are countless ways to contribute to your adoption fund besides checking into your employee adoption benefits, applying for...

Our Favorite Children’s Books About Adoption

Our Favorite Children’s Books About Adoption

Experts recommend talking about adoption with your child early on so they feel confident in their identity and proud of their story. In addition, sharing your child's adoption story with them in an age-appropriate manner will promote a healthy view of adoption.  ...


Pin It on Pinterest