Can COVID-19 Cause Birth Injuries?

The immediate answer to this question is no; COVID-19 cannot cause birth injuries directly. However, there are circumstances that could arise due to COVID-19 that could lead to neonatal injuries for the baby. Over the past few months, studies have been conducted to determine if pregnant women, women who gave birth during the pandemic, and their newborn faced any additional risks or complications from coronavirus.

The news so far is promising: the results of these studies show that the risk of spreading COVID-19 to the baby is very low, and none of the babies themselves sustained any type of birth injury or trauma from the illness. A study conducted in the United Kingdom by the Nuffield Department of Population Health involved 427 pregnant women who tested positive for COVID-19. These women had complications serious enough from the coronavirus that they required hospitalization. The results of the study are as follows:

  • Close to 1 in 5 babies were born prematurely (there was no mention of birth injuries)
  • Less than 20 babies were born severely premature
  • 12 babies tested positive for COVID-19
  • Just 6 of those 12 babies tested positive immediately following birth
  • 1 out of every 10 babies was born at-term to a mother who tested positive for Coronavirus, which is close to the same rate of mothers who tested negative for Coronavirus

Pregnant women, however, could face complications during labor

Even though pregnant women are considered immunocompromised, it is unknown if they are more at risk to contract COVID-19 than they would be to contract the flu or any other illness during their pregnancy. This is good news.

However, in the most severe cases of COVID-19, the impacts on the body of any patient can include serious side effects, including:

  • Renal failure
  • Heart failure
  • Organ failure
  • Damage to the kidneys, liver, heart, and other organs
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
  • Blood clots
  • Stroke
  • Damage to blood vessels and tissue of alveoli in the lungs

This matters because these types of side effects could affect the baby, both in utero and during delivery. Blood clots, for example, can be deadly; so can strokes. Pregnant women are at higher risk of suffering from a stroke because the pregnancy puts a strain on the blood vessels and the heart and also changes the hormones of the body. Preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and other health issues can also increase the chance of a stroke. As such, pregnant women who contract COVID-19 must be carefully monitored during their pregnancy and labor, even if they make a full recovery from the disease.

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