More Than 100 Babies Born to COVID-19 Mothers at Mumbai Hospital As Cases in the City Spike

Medics at a Mumbai hospital have delivered 115 newborns to mothers with COVID-19 over the last month, as numbers across the city continue to spike.

The overwhelming majority of the babies born at the Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital—also known as Sion Hospital—were virus-free, with only three testing positive for the novel coronavirus. In all three cases, subsequent tests came back negative. However, two mothers died, one before her child was born.

The women were treated in a special ward overseen by a team of 65 doctors and roughly 24 nurses in protective gear, according to the BBC. In over half of cases, the baby was delivered via cesarean section.

Post-delivery, the women stayed in the ward and were given the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine before being transferred to another center, where they are quarantined for a period of up to 10 days. The newborns are not isolated. They are breastfed by their mothers, who wear facemasks.

"We are fortunate that most of the women who have tested positive are showing no symptoms at all," Dr. Arun Nayak, head of gynecology at the hospital, told the BBC. "Some of them had fever and reported breathlessness."

In another part of the city, Nair Hospital welcomed the 100th baby born to a mother infected with COVID-19 on Monday, becoming the second hospital in Mumbai to reach the century mark.

Medics at the hospital told local media babies are tested for the virus 24 hours after birth but, so far, only a handful have come back positive. And while it has not been confirmed, they do not suspect the coronavirus was caught in vitro. From observations to date, they say there do not appear to be abnormalities in the births relating to the fact that the mother had COVID-19 during the pregnancy and delivery.

The news of the pregnancies comes as the city of Mumbai sees a spike in cases of COVID-19. On Wednesday, the city reported 1,372 new cases, bringing the total to 24,118. There have been 841 deaths linked to the disease as of May 20.

Hospitals have been overwhelmed by the spike in cases, with reports revealing dead bodies wrapped in plastic were left on beds next to living patients due to a lack of space at the Sion Hospital morgue.

Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General hospital
People walk past the Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General hospital during a nationwide lockdown to fight the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Mumbai on May 15, 2020. The hospital have delivered more than 100 newborns to mothers with COVID-19 as cases in the city spike. INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty

Much about the impact of COVID-19 on pregnancy remains uncertain.

A study involving 147 pregnant women from Wuhan, China, cited by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), suggests pregnancy does not increase the risk of experiencing a more severe illness. A number of small-scale studies have suggested the risk of a mother infected with COVID-19 passing on the virus to her unborn child in vitro is low. Research published in the National Library of Medicine, for example, found no instances of the virus in all 38 newborns tested. However, researchers stressed the need to analyze additional cases before making any firm conclusions.

According to the CDC: "Mother-to-child transmission of COVID-19 during pregnancy is unlikely. However, after birth, a newborn can be infected after being in close contact with an infected person, including the baby's mother or other caregivers."