Covid-19 could affect the brain development of babies in the womb

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According to a study published in JAMA Network Open, babies exposed to Covid-19 in the womb are more likely to be diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders within the first year after delivery. This adds to a wealth of research highlighting the importance of vaccination during pregnancy and may indicate a much bigger problem as children born during the pandemic grow older.


  • Neurodevelopmental disorders encompass a wide range of problems such as autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, learning disabilities, and cerebral palsy, which are related to the development of the brain and nervous system.
  • While many disorders are typically diagnosed much later in life, diagnoses of neurodevelopmental disorders related to problems with speech, language, and motor function were “significantly more common” among babies exposed to COVID-19 in the womb. , according to the researchers.
  • These findings are based on a study of 7,772 children born in Massachusetts hospitals during the pandemic, 222 of whom had parents who tested positive during their pregnancies.
  • The link held even after the researchers accounted for other factors that can influence the rate of neurodevelopmental disorders, including ethnicity, insurance status, maternal age, gender, offspring and age. preterm birth, a known and more likely risk factor in pregnant women who have had COVID-19.
  • Rates of neurodevelopmental disorders were particularly high in babies exposed during the third trimester, the researchers said, though it’s not clear why.
  • The researchers said their findings underscore the urgent need for more research into how COVID-19 affects child development and to confirm the link they identified.

key context

These findings highlight another set of potential dangers the pandemic poses for pregnant women and their children. Pregnant women infected with Covid-19 are at much higher risk of severe illness and death, are much more likely to give birth prematurely, and experience serious complications. Children who are born prematurely are more likely to face short-term and long-term health problems, including behavioral problems and heart problems. Vaccination, although it cannot eliminate all the risk of infection, has repeatedly shown that it is a safe way to reduce the risks of Covid-19 faced by the parents and the child. Despite this, vaccination coverage among pregnant women remains low.

what we don’t know

The extent and nature of the link between exposure to Covid-19 in the womb and neurodevelopmental disorders. As the research is observational, it cannot establish a definitive causal link between Covid-19 and the increased rate of neurodevelopmental disorders, nor suggest a mechanism that explains this phenomenon. While other explanations are possible — there could be different variables that the researchers didn’t take into account sufficiently — the researchers noted that other maternal infections, including those caused by viruses such as influenza, are consistently associated with higher rates of neurodevelopmental disorders in exposed children.

to watch

Emerging themes as children grow. This study focuses on children one year after birth and we are just over two years from the start of the pandemic. Since many neurodevelopmental disorders are not diagnosed or manifest until later in childhood, and many are not diagnosed until adolescence or adulthood, it is difficult to fully understand the true magnitude of the problem. In an opinion piece related to the study, Dr. Torri Metz, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Utah, called the findings “crucially important, but many questions remain.” The study has raised a number of additional questions about how the virus affects development, Dr. Metz added, including whether it matters when the child is exposed in the womb, which variant is involved (the study was done in 2020 when the first variants as the original and Alpha were circulating) and if anything can be done to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic on children.

Forbes US Translated Article – Author: Robert Hart

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