A new study adds to growing evidence that mothers may not need to be separated from their newborn after giving birth, even after testing positive for COVID-19.
Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center found no evidence of transmission from infected mothers to newborns, according to an observational study published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Pediatrics.
The study included 101 babies and 100 mothers, with one mom giving birth to twins. Ninety-nine mothers tested positive for COVID-19 and one tested negative, but she presented clinical symptoms consistent with the disease.
Out of the 100 moms, 91 chose to breastfeed and 76 chose to stay in the same room as their newborn. Mothers who nursed their newborn wore a mask and practiced breast and hand hygiene. Those who roomed-in with their newborn saw them physically distanced in an isolette about 6 feet away.
“Our findings suggest that mothers positive for SARS-CoV-2, including those with clinical symptoms, and their newborns may not need to be separated,” the authors concluded. However, this was only true when implementing transmission mitigation practices.
In March, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology recommended pregnant women who become infected with COVID-19 possibly be separated from their newborn for up to a week or more to stop the potential spread of the virus from mother to child.
However, both have updated guidelines since then. ACOG says separating mother and baby after birth should be “a process of shared decision-making with the patient, their family and the clinical team.”
The association recommends rooming-in should be combined with safety measures such as wearing a mask, practicing hand hygiene and engineering control barriers to keep the newborn 6 feet away from the mother as often as possible.
“Rooming-in is a key practice to encourage and support breastfeeding,” ACOG said in a statement. But, it also acknowledges there may be some special circumstances in which temporary separation is appropriate.
Dr. Oluwatosin Goje, an obstetrician and gynecologist and infectious disease specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, said the study should be reassuring to all mothers who want to breastfeed, regardless of their COVID-19 test results.
Breastfeeding has long been associated with reduced rates of disease such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer and type 2 diabetes, said Rebecca H. McCormick, president of La Leche League USA, a nonprofit that advocates breastfeeding.
Study authors also say in their analysis breast milk may help prevent infection as it’s known to protect against numerous pathogens and has been found to contain Immunoglobulin A, an antibody that can fight against the coronavirus.
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“COVID-19 is still an emerging infectious disease and as more data is made available, I’m sure CDC, ACOG and hospitals will continue to modify their guidelines,” Goje said. “We all want to practice evidence-based medicine, that I know.”
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