Covid-19 can affect babies’ brain development in the womb

According to a study published in JAMA Network Open, babies exposed to Covid-19 in the womb are more likely to develop neurodevelopmental disorders during the first year after birth. This adds to a large body of research that highlights the importance of vaccination during pregnancy and may point to a much bigger problem as babies born during the pandemic grow older.


  • Neurodevelopmental disorders include a wide range of problems such as autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, learning difficulties and cerebral palsy, which are related to the development of the brain and nervous system.
  • While many disorders are usually diagnosed later in life, diagnoses of neurodevelopmental disorders related to speech, language and motor function problems were “more common” among children exposed to Covid-19 in utero, according to the researchers.
  • These findings are based on a study of 7,772 children born in Massachusetts hospitals during the pandemic, of whom 222 had fathers who tested positive during their pregnancy.
  • The association persisted even after the researchers took into account other factors that may influence the rate of neurodevelopmental disorders, including race, insurance status, maternal age, gender, offspring and preterm birth, a known and more likely risk factor in pregnant women who experienced it. COVID-19.
  • The researchers said rates of neurodevelopmental disorders were particularly high in infants exposed during the third trimester, although it is not clear why this is.
  • The researchers said their findings underscore the urgent need for more research into how Covid-19 affects a child’s development and confirm the association they identified.

main context

These findings highlight another set of potential risks that the epidemic poses to pregnant women and their babies. Pregnant women with Covid-19 are at greater risk of serious illness and death, and are more likely to give birth prematurely and suffer serious complications. Babies born prematurely are more likely to have short- and long-term health problems, including behavioral problems and heart problems. Although vaccination cannot eliminate all risks of infection, it has been shown time and time again to be a safe way to reduce the risks of Covid-19 faced by parents and children. Despite this, vaccination coverage among pregnant women remains low.

What we don’t know

Extent and nature of association between exposure to Covid-19 in utero and neurodevelopmental disorders. Because the research is based on observation, it cannot establish a definitive causal relationship between Covid-19 and the higher rate of neurodevelopmental disorders, nor does it suggest a mechanism to explain this phenomenon. While other explanations are possible—there may be different variables that the researchers have not adequately explained—the researchers note 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

Issues emerging as children grow. This study focuses on children one year after birth and more than two years after the onset of the epidemic. Because many neurodevelopmental disorders are not diagnosed or appear until later in childhood, and many are not diagnosed until adolescence or adulthood, it is difficult to fully understand the true scale of the problem. In an opinion piece related to the study, Dr. Tori Metz, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Utah, said the findings are “very important, but many questions remain.” Dr. Metz added that the study raised a number of additional questions about how the virus affected development, including whether it mattered when the baby was exposed in the womb, and what variant was involved (the study was conducted in 2020 when early variants like the original. The strain was and alpha is spreading) and if anything can be done to help mitigate the effects of the epidemic on children.

Article translated from the American Forbes magazine – author: Robert Hart

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