LivingBabies born during the pandemic show a lower level...

Babies born during the pandemic show a lower level of development, and could be due to maternal stress

A group of scientists from Columbia University (United States) wanted to investigate whether Covid infection during pregnancy could somehow affect the neurological development of the baby at birth.

To do this, they carried out a study that included 255 babies born between March and December 2020, and published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, which concluded that babies born during the first year of the pandemic obtained slightly lower scores in a test of screening for motor and social skill development at six months , regardless of whether their mothers had COVID during pregnancy, compared to babies born just before the pandemic.

“Babies born to mothers who have viral infections during pregnancy are at increased risk of neurodevelopmental deficits, so we thought we would find some neurodevelopmental changes in babies whose mothers had COVID during pregnancy,” says Dani Dumitriu, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University and the study’s principal investigator.

Slightly weaker social and motor skills

“We were surprised to find absolutely no signs to suggest that COVID exposure in utero was related to neurodevelopmental deficits. Rather, being in the womb of a mother experiencing the pandemic was associated with slightly lower scores in areas such as motor and social skills, though not others, such as communication or problem-solving skills. The results suggest that the enormous amount of stress pregnant mothers feel during these unprecedented times may have played a role .

“These weren’t big differences, which means we didn’t see a higher rate of actual developmental delays in our sample of a few hundred babies, just small changes in the average scores between the groups,” says Dumitriu. “But these small changes deserve careful attention because, at the population level, they can have a significant impact on public health. We know this from other pandemics and natural disasters. “

In the current study, the researchers analyzed the responses to a questionnaire that pediatricians give to parents to assess aspects of child development, such as communication and fine and gross motor skills, problem solving and social skills.

“We want parents to know that the findings of our small study do not necessarily mean that this generation will be affected later in life,” says Dumitriu. “This is still a very early developmental stage with many opportunities to step in and get these babies on the right developmental trajectory.”

Could Covid-Related Stress Affect Baby’s Development?

Although the study did not measure maternal stress during pregnancy, Dumitriu says it is possible that the stress caused by the pandemic and experienced by mothers during pregnancy explains the drop in motor and social skills found in babies born during pregnancy. pandemic.

Previous studies have shown that maternal stress in early pregnancy has a greater effect on babies’ social-emotional functioning than stress later in pregnancy, and a similar trend was found in the new study.

Babies whose mothers were in the first trimester of pregnancy at the height of the pandemic had the lowest neurodevelopmental scores.

Other factors, including fewer play dates and disturbed interactions with stressed caregivers, may help explain why babies born during the pandemic have weaker motor and social skills than babies born before the pandemic.

Researchers will continue to follow these babies in long-term studies.

In Babies and more | The stress caused by the coronavirus in pregnant women can cause harm to babies: they need a psychological prenatal control

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