Babies born to mothers who suffered from Covid-19 disease during pregnancy appear to show differences in neurodevelopmental outcomes within 6 weeks, according to an analysis presented at the 30th European Congress of Psychiatry.
However, project leader Dr Rosa Ayesa Arriola said that “not all babies born to mothers infected with Covid show neurological differences, but our data shows that their risk is higher compared to babies not exposed to Covid in utero. We have a larger study is needed to confirm the exact magnitude of the difference.”
During the study, the scientists 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 in late pregnancy. In addition, babies born to infected mothers have more difficulty controlling head and shoulder movements. These changes suggest a possible Covid-19 effect on locomotion.
The first evaluation compared babies born to 21 Covid-positive pregnant women and their babies, with 21 healthy controls who attended Marques de Valdecilla University Hospital in Santander, Spain. During the assessment, the mothers underwent a series of tests during and after pregnancy.
These include hormonal and other biochemical tests (which measure things like cortisol levels, immune response, etc.), saliva tests, movement responses, and psychological questionnaires. All analyzes were adjusted for child’s age, gender, and other factors.
Meanwhile, the postnatal tests include the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS), which measures the baby’s movement 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 respond slightly differently to being held or cuddled,” said study researcher Agueda Castro Quintas (University of Barcelona, Network Center for Biomedical Research in Mental Health).
According to the scientists, these findings bolster evidence of epigenetic changes in babies born to mothers exposed to pandemic stress during pregnancy.