Current evidence of SARS-CoV-2 vertical transmission: an integrative review

Rev Assoc Med Bras (1992). 2020 Sep 21;66Suppl 2(Suppl 2):130-135. doi: 10.1590/1806-9282.66.S2.130. eCollection 2020.


Objective: To review the current scientific evidence of vertical transmission related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Methods: An integrative review was performed by two independent researchers, based on the literature available in the MEDLINE (via PubMed) and LILACS databases, using the descriptors "pregnancy" AND "COVID-19" AND "vertical transmission". This search included case reports or case series published up until 17th June 2020 in English or Portuguese. After reading the articles available in their entirety, those related specifically to the potential risks of vertical transmission of COVID-19 during pregnancy were selected. We initially found a total of 57 articles; 26 were carefully screened and 15 were finally selected.

Results: Pregnancy can make women more susceptible to infections, especially by viral pathogens, given the various physiological and immunological changes that occur to maintain maternal-fetal balance. It is speculated that the fetus may be a possible target for COVID-19. Few studies (3 out of 15) in our analysis have found positive results for SARS-CoV-2 in fetal membranes, placenta, and in newborns right after birth. Additionally, no difference was noticed when comparing different modes of delivery, and seems reasonable to assume that pregnant women with stable clinical conditions can be encouraged for vaginal delivery.

Conclusion: Further studies with a great number of cases are warranted to elucidate whether the virus may be vertically transmitted to the fetus and if any maternal conditions can influence that. Our findings seem to demonstrate that vertical transmission is possible but quite unusual.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections* / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections* / prevention & control
  • Coronavirus Infections* / transmission
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical*
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / prevention & control
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / transmission
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / prevention & control*
  • SARS-CoV-2