Babies exposed to Covid-19 in womb at risk of neurodevelopmental changes

London: Babies born to mothers who suffered Covid-19 during pregnancy appear to show differences in neurodevelopmental outcomes after six weeks, according to a preliminary analysis.

Researchers found that babies born to mothers who were infected have more trouble relaxing and their bodies adjusting when held, compared to babies born to uninfected mothers, especially when the infection occurred at the end of pregnancy.

In addition, babies born to infected mothers have more difficulty controlling head and shoulder movements. These changes suggest a possible Covid effect on motor function (motion control).

“Not all babies born to mothers infected with Covid show neurodevelopmental differences, but our data shows that their risk is greater compared to babies not exposed to Covid in utero. We need a larger study to determine the exact size of the difference,” says Dr Rosa Ayesa Arriola of the University Hospital Marques de Valdecilla in Santander, Spain.

The analysis was presented at the 30th European Congress of Psychiatry held in Budapest.

In the first evaluation, babies born to 21 Covid-positive pregnant women and their babies were compared with 21 healthy controls. The mothers underwent a battery of tests, including hormonal and other biochemical tests (including cortisol levels, immune response, etc.), saliva tests, movement responses and psychological questionnaires during and after pregnancy.

The postnatal tests include the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS), which measures the baby’s movements and behavior.

“We found that certain elements of the NBAS measurement were altered in 6-week-old infants exposed to the SARS-COV-2 virus. In fact, they react slightly differently to being held or cuddled,” said Agueda Castro Quintas of the University of Barcelona.

“There is a great need to study both the direct and indirect effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the health and well-being of parents and infants. Pregnancy is a time in life that determines a large part of our further development, and exposure to adversity during pregnancy can leave long-lasting biological footprints,” adds Dr. Livio Provenzi of the University of Pavia in Italy, who was not involved in this work.


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