Journal of the European Society for Gynaecological Endoscopy


Retrospective observational RT-PCR analyses on 688 babies born to 843 SARS-CoV-2 positive mothers, placental analyses and diagnostic analyses limitations suggest vertical transmission is possible

G. Bahadur 1,2, M. Bhat 3, S. Acharya 3, D. Janga 1, B. Cambell 1, J. Huirne 4, W. Yoong 1, A. Govind 1, J. Pardo 1, R. Homburg 2

1 Reproductive Medicine Unit/Obstetrics and Gynaecology Unit, North Middlesex University Hospital, Old Admin Block, Sterling Way, London N18 1QX, UK;
2 Homerton Fertility Unit, Homerton University Hospital, Homerton Row, London E9 6SR,UK;
3 Ayrshire Fertility Unit, University Hospital Crosshouse, Kilmarnock, Scotland;
4 University Medical Centers Amsterdam, Research Institute Reproduction and Development. Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, pregnancy, risks, vertical transmission

Published online: Mar 31 2021


Research question: Is there vertical transmission (from mother to baby antenatally or intrapartum) after SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) infected pregnancy?

Study design: A systematic search related to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), pregnancy, neonatal complications, viral and vertical transmission. The duration was from December 2019 to May 2020.

Results: A total of 84 studies with 862 COVID positive women were included. Two studies had ongoing pregnancies while 82 studies included 705 babies, 1 miscarriage and 1 medical termination of pregnancy (MTOP). Most publications (50/84, 59.5%), reported small numbers (<5) of positive babies. From 75 studies, 18 babies were COVID-19 positive. The first reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) diagnostic test was done in 449 babies and 2 losses, 2nd RT-PCR was done in 82 babies, IgM tests were done in 28 babies, and IgG tests were done in 28 babies. On the first RT-PCR, 47 studies reported time of testing while 28 studies did not. Positive results in the first RT-PCR were seen in 14 babies. Earliest tested at birth and the average time of the result was 22 hours. Three babies with negative first RT-PCR became positive on the second RT-PCR at day 6, day 7 and at 24 hours which continued to be positive at 1 week.

Four studies with a total of 4 placental swabs were positive demonstrating SARS-CoV-2 localised in the placenta. In 2 studies, 10 tests for amniotic fluid were positive for SARS-CoV-2. These 2 babies were found to be positive on RT-PCR on serial testing.

Conclusion: Diagnostic testing combined with incubation period and placental pathology indicate a strong likelihood that intrapartum vertical transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) from mother to baby is possible.