Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet and the Swedish Public Health Agency studied newborns whose mothers tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 during pregnancy or childbirth. The results show that although babies born to mothers who tested positive were more likely to be born early, very few were infected with COVID-19. The study, published in JAMA, supports the Swedish recommendation not to separate mother and baby after childbirth.
The population-based study looked at 92% of all newborns – nearly 90,000 births – in Sweden in the first year of the pandemic (March 11, 2020 to January 31, 2021), making it one of the largest datasets in the field to date. .
The results show a slightly higher level of morbidity in newborns whose mothers tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, including an increased risk of respiratory problems, which were largely due to the higher number of preterm births. in this group. No direct correlation between maternal infection and neonatal respiratory infection or pneumonia could be observed.
A total of 2,323 babies were born to mothers who were HIV positive for SARS-CoV-2, of which about a third were tested near or immediately after childbirth. Only 21 (0.9 percent) of the babies of these women tested positive for the virus at any time during the neonatal period (the first 28 days), the majority without showing any symptoms; a few babies were treated for reasons other than COVID-19.
The study supports the Swedish recommendation that babies born to women who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 during pregnancy or during childbirth do not need to be systematically separated from their mothers at birth. . In many countries, such a precautionary measure is taken despite the lack of supporting evidence.
“Separating a newborn from its mother is a serious intervention with negative consequences for the health of the mother and the baby which must be weighed against the possible benefits”, says Mikael Norman, professor of pediatrics in the Department of Clinical Science , intervention and technology. , Karolinska Institutet, and one of the researchers leading the study. “Our study suggests that mother and baby can be cared for together and that breastfeeding can be recommended without endangering the health of the baby. This is good news for all pregnant women, their babies, and postnatal and neonatal staff. . “
The study was made possible through daily reporting to three Swedish registries: the National Quality Register for Pregnancy, the National Quality Register for Neonatal Care and the Communicable Disease Register (SmiNet). SmiNet is a communicable disease reporting system used jointly by the Public Health Agency of Sweden and regional communicable disease units to monitor the over 60 reportable diseases that must be reported under the Communicable Disease Act .
“By crossing the three registers, we were able to monitor and report the results of newborns in real time during the first and second waves of COVID-19,” explains Professor Norman.
The study was funded by the Swedish Society of Medicine, NordForsk, Stockholm region (ALF funding) and the Children’s Foundation of the Swedish Order of Freemasons in Stockholm. Co-author Jonas F. Ludvigsson is leading a study on behalf of the Swedish IBD Quality Registry (SWIBREG), which received funding from Janssen. No other potential conflicts of interest were reported.
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