Unlikely SARS-CoV-2 Transmission During Vaginal Delivery

Reprod Sci. 2021 Oct;28(10):2939-2941. doi: 10.1007/s43032-021-00681-5. Epub 2021 Jul 22.


Pregnant women display a higher risk of progression to disease and higher viral loads during infections due to their more permissive, tolerogenic immune system. However, only few studies have focused on SARS-CoV-2 intrapartum vertical transmission via vaginal secretions or faeces. The aim of this study was to investigate the presence of the virus in vaginal, rectal and blood specimens from pregnant women characterized by different COVID-19 disease severity. We enrolled 56 SARS-CoV-2-positive pregnant women, of which 46 (82%) were in the third trimester of pregnancy, 6 (10%) in the second and 4 (7%) in the first. QPCR was performed to detect the virus in vaginal and rectal swabs and in plasma samples. SARS-CoV-2 was detected in 27% of rectal swabs of pregnant women in the third trimester, while no virus particles were detected in vaginal swabs of the same patients. Furthermore, only 4% plasma samples tested positive to SARS-CoV-2. No virus was detected in newborn's nasopharyngeal swabs. Despite the low number of subjects enrolled, our data suggest that, while theoretically possible, intrapartum vaginal or orofecal SARS-CoV-2 transmission seems to be unlikely.

Keywords: Intrapartum vertical transmission; Pregnant women; Rectal swabs; SARS-CoV-2; Vaginal fluid.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19 / blood
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis
  • COVID-19 / transmission*
  • COVID-19 / virology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical*
  • Nasopharynx / virology*
  • Parturition*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / blood
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / virology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rectum / virology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification*
  • Vagina / virology*
  • Young Adult