COVID-19 Could Impact Babies’ Brain Development in the Womb

According to a study published in JAMA Network Open, infants 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 large body of research highlighting the importance of vaccination during pregnancy and may signal a much bigger problem as children born during the pandemic grow up.


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 speech, language and motor function problems were “significantly more common” among infants exposed to Covid-19 in the uterus, 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 took into account other factors that may influence the rate of neurodevelopmental disorders, including ethnicity, insurance status, mother’s age, gender. offspring and premature birth, a known and more likely risk factor in pregnant women who have had Covid-19.Rates of neurodevelopmental disorders were particularly high in infants 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 possible dangers the pandemic poses to pregnant women and their children. Pregnant women infected with Covid-19 are at a much higher risk of serious illness and death, they are much more likely to give birth prematurely and experience serious complications. Children 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 risk of infection, has been repeatedly proven to be a safe way to reduce the risks of Covid-19 faced by parents and 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 higher rate of neurodevelopmental disorders, nor suggest a mechanism explaining this phenomenon. While other explanations are possible — there could be different variables that the researchers didn’t sufficiently account for — the researchers note that other maternal infections, including those caused by viruses like influenza, are consistently associated with higher rates of neurodevelopmental disorders in exposed children.

To Monitor

Emerging issues as children grow. This study focuses on children one year after birth and we are just over two years after 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 grasp the true magnitude of the problem. In an op-ed related to the study, Dr. Torri Metz, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Utah, said the findings were “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, what variant is involved (the study was conducted in 2020 when early variants like the original strain and Alpha were circulating) and if anything can be done to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic on children.

Dr Rohit Bhaskar, Physio
Dr Rohit Bhaskar, Physio Dr. Rohit Bhaskar, Physio is Founder of Bhaskar Health and Physiotherapy and is also a consulting physiotherapist. He completed his Graduation in Physiotherapy from Uttar Pradesh University of Medical Sciences. His clinical interests are in Chest Physiotherapy, stroke rehab, parkinson’s and head injury rehab. Bhaskar Health is dedicated to readers, doctors, physiotherapists, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals. Bhaskar Health audience is the reason I feel so passionate about this project, so thanks for reading and sharing Bhaskar Health.

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