Dr. Rahul Yadav on COVID-19 in neonates and infants

May 10, 2020 12:02 am | Updated May 18, 2020 05:20 pm IST

Dr. Rahul Yadav, Senior perinatologist and neonatologist.

Dr. Rahul Yadav, Senior perinatologist and neonatologist.

Here is some good news for pregnant and lactating mothers:

  • Coronavirus infection is less frequent and less severe in children (Child Sparing Pattern)
  • During and after pregnancy, a woman is not at increased risk of coronavirus
  • COVID-19 does not increase in severity in pregnancy as compared to other people
  • Transmission from mother to baby before, during and after birth can happen but it is less common than anticipated
  • Most of the breastmilk samples tested for risks have negative results. So most European counties, most international authorities such as WHO, UNICEF, many Indian professional bodies recommend to continue breastfeeding even if the mother has COVID-19.

Be careful with testing

COVID-19 in new born infants is suspected in only two situations:

  • Born to mother with suspected or confirmed COVID-19
  • Related to cluster outbreak or exposed to infected relatives or caregivers

Indiscriminate testing of all infants with respiratory symptoms is not recommended. One should note that occasionally babies infected before birth can have RT-PCR test negative and many babies with RT-PCR test positive can be quite healthy.

Newborns and mothers

During this pandemic, no extra care is needed for a normal new-born born to a normal mother. Regular precautions such as hand washing and breastfeeding should be enough. Social events such as baby shower before birth or naming ceremony after birth should be performed in a symbolic way only. Crowding of relatives and well-wishers near mother and baby should be avoided till this pandemic is over. Vaccinations should be given as usual; avoiding crowding in hospitals. Parents should not delay visit to hospital if baby develops any medical complication. In summer season, dehydration is common. Please avoid over-wrapping the baby and visit the paediatrician if the baby stops feeding and urine output becomes less. They are treated like any other pregnant women. Full medical and obstetrics care is given by designated hospitals. An attempt is made to postpone the delivery beyond the eighth month of pregnancy. If mother’s health is at risk; then baby is delivered early. So far, Indian perinatal and neonatal outcomes are satisfactory. After birth, mothers must wear a mask and breast-feed the baby on demand. The baby and mother can be kept in the same room or different rooms depending on availability of accommodation and nurses. If in same room, a 2-metre distance should be maintained between mother and baby. The baby is monitored for signs such as fever, difficulty in breathing, lethargy, rash, and diarrhoea.

May 10 is International Mother’s Day. All over the world, mothers have mixed feelings. According to UNICEF, 24 million babies are expected to be born in India during next year. One can be optimistic of better perinatal and neonatal care due to better awareness of hygiene, better health infrastructure.

Even if COVID-19 lingers, good habits such as handwashing and physical distancing can make our world a better place for newborns.

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