Outcomes of Neonates Born to Mothers With Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 Infection at a Large Medical Center in New York City

JAMA Pediatr. 2021 Feb 1;175(2):157-167. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.4298.


Importance: Limited data on vertical and perinatal transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and health outcomes of neonates born to mothers with symptomatic or asymptomatic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are available. Studies are needed to inform evidence-based infection prevention and control (IP&C) policies.

Objective: To describe the outcomes of neonates born to mothers with perinatal SARS-CoV-2 infection and the IP&C practices associated with these outcomes.

Design, setting, and participants: This retrospective cohort analysis reviewed the medical records for maternal and newborn data for all 101 neonates born to 100 mothers positive for or with suspected SARS-CoV-2 infection from March 13 to April 24, 2020. Testing for SARS-CoV-2 was performed using Cobas (Roche Diagnostics) or Xpert Xpress (Cepheid) assays. Newborns were admitted to well-baby nurseries (WBNs) (82 infants) and neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) (19 infants) in 2 affiliate hospitals at a large academic medical center in New York, New York. Newborns from the WBNs roomed-in with their mothers, who were required to wear masks. Direct breastfeeding after appropriate hygiene was encouraged.

Exposures: Perinatal exposure to maternal asymptomatic/mild vs severe/critical COVID-19.

Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was newborn SARS-CoV-2 testing results. Maternal COVID-19 status was classified as asymptomatic/mildly symptomatic vs severe/critical. Newborn characteristics and clinical courses were compared across maternal COVID-19 severity.

Results: In total, 141 tests were obtained from 101 newborns (54 girls [53.5%]) on 0 to 25 days of life (DOL-0 to DOL-25) (median, DOL-1; interquartile range [IQR], DOL-1 to DOL-3). Two newborns had indeterminate test results, indicative of low viral load (2.0%; 95% CI, 0.2%-7.0%); 1 newborn never underwent retesting but remained well on follow-up, and the other had negative results on retesting. Maternal severe/critical COVID-19 was associated with newborns born approximately 1 week earlier (median gestational age, 37.9 [IQR, 37.1-38.4] vs 39.1 [IQR, 38.3-40.2] weeks; P = .02) and at increased risk of requiring phototherapy (3 of 10 [30.0%] vs 6 of 91 [7.0%]; P = .04) compared with newborns of mothers with asymptomatic/mild COVID-19. Fifty-five newborns were followed up in a new COVID-19 Newborn Follow-up Clinic at DOL-3 to DOL-10 and remained well. Twenty of these newborns plus 3 newborns followed up elsewhere had 32 nonroutine encounters documented at DOL-3 to DOL-25, and none had evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection, including 6 with negative retesting results.

Conclusions and relevance: No clinical evidence of vertical transmission was identified in 101 newborns of mothers positive for or with suspected SARS-CoV-2 infection, despite most newborns rooming-in and direct breastfeeding practices.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / transmission*
  • COVID-19 Testing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • New York City
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy Outcome / epidemiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification
  • Young Adult