COVID-19 Moms' Newborns Show Motoric Deficits: Study

Babies born to mothers infected with COVID-19 show difficulties with motor development some weeks after birth, according to results of a preliminary study at a clinic in Spain which stand in contrast to information by Britain's National Health Service (NHS).

Project Leader Dr. Rosa Ayesa Arriola said her team of researchers compared 21 COVID-positive pregnant women and their babies with 21 healthy controls at the Marqués de Valdecilla University Hospital in Santander, northern Spain.

The scientists found that newborns of women infected with COVID-19 during pregnancy seemed to exhibit differences in neurodevelopmental outcomes at six weeks.

Newborn in hospital
A newborn lies in the maternity ward of Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey, England, on May 22, 2020. Steve Parsons - Pool/Getty Images

Ayesa Arriola explained: "Not all babies born to mothers infected with COVID show neurodevelopmental differences.

"However, our data shows that their risk is increased in comparison to those not exposed to COVID in the womb."

Arriola, a neuropsychologist and senior researcher at the Valdecilla Research Institute (IDIVAL) in Santander, underlined that a bigger study was necessary to determine the extent of the difference.

The team of researchers discovered that babies born to mothers who got infected were showing greater difficulties in relaxing and adapting their bodies when they are being held, especially if the infection occurred at a late stage of the pregnancy.

The study also shows that infants born to infected women have greater difficulties controlling their head and shoulder movements.

This appears to contradict information provided by the NHS.

On its website, the NHS says: "It may be possible for you to pass COVID-19 to your baby before they're born. But when this has happened, the babies have got better.

"There's no evidence COVID-19 causes miscarriage or affects how your baby develops in pregnancy."

The Spanish researchers will resume their project to find out more about potential long-term effects. The study will monitor the babies' language and motor development when they are 18 to 42 months old.

The initial study featured a series of hormonal and other biochemical checks on the mothers during and after pregnancy.

Among other factors, the scientists examined cortisol levels, the immunological and movement responses.

During the postnatal tests, the researchers monitored the babies' movement and behavior considering the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS).

"We found that certain elements of the measurement were changed in 6-week-old infants who had been exposed to the SARS-COV-2 virus," said Agueda Castro Quintas, a researcher at Barcelona University's Network Center for Biomedical Research in Mental Health.

"Effectively, they react slightly differently to being held or cuddled."

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.