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Can COVID-19 Cause Birth Injury?

Posted on August 24, 2020

Scientists are closely watching the impact of COVID-19 on both expectant mothers and their fetuses to determine if the can cause birth injury, according to an article in Science Magazine. While other viruses, from Zika to rubella, have been linked to serious birth defects, COVID-19 thus far has not.

Studies have shown that, in rare cases, COVID-19 can infect a fetus late in pregnancy. However, there have been no infections seen during the critical first trimester when organs and tissues are formed, most likely because COVID-19 is not a bloodborne pathogen like rubella and there are no receptor cells for it on the placenta, like Zika and cytomegalovirus, reported the article.

In addition, there is no evidence yet that COVID-19 is transmitted at birth. A recent study at New York hospitals revealed that 71 babies born to mothers with COVID-19 were uninfected. Still, having COVID-19 during pregnancy could put a fetus at risk. Blood clots, which are more common with COVID, could limit oxygen and nutrients and affect fetal growth, noted the article.

Birth injuries aren’t the only concern with a COVID-19 pregnancy. Pregnant women themselves are vulnerable to the more severe effects of the virus. That’s because the heart and lungs are already strained by supporting another life, and COVID-19 tends to attack those organs, putting the women at greater risk.

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pregnant women were “50 percent more likely to end up in intensive care units (ICUs) than their nonpregnant peers. Pregnant women were also 70% more likely to need ventilators, although they were no more likely to die.” A study in Sweden corroborated the severity of the disease, finding “that pregnant or immediately postpartum women with COVID-19 were nearly six times as likely to land in ICUs as their nonpregnant, COVID-19–infected peers.” Medical complications from COVID-19 may continue for the new mother even after delivery. A study showed about 13 percent could experience complications, including hospital readmission.

The article noted that there’s not enough data yet for conclusive evidence on COVID-19, pregnancy and birth injuries. The medical community will continue to assess the risks and dangers as they await births in the fall. Birth injuries happen more often than you might expect. If you have a child, or a loved one, who suffers from a birth injury, contact an experienced birth injury attorney in Philadelphia.