Coronavirus: CDC recommends temporarily separating newborns from mothers with Covid-19

CDC says guidelines are 'intentionally cautious' until more information about virus becomes available

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Friday 27 March 2020 17:25
CDC says infants born to mothers with coronavirus should be temporarily separated (Getty)
CDC says infants born to mothers with coronavirus should be temporarily separated (Getty)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said new mothers who have tested positive for coronavirus should be temporarily separated from their newborns.

According to the new hospital guidelines, which were also published by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology, infants born to mothers with coronavirus should be considered persons under investigation (PUIs) and should be isolated in accordance with infection prevention guidance.

“To reduce the risk of transmission of the virus that causes Covid-19 from the mother to the newborn, facilities should consider temporarily separating (eg separate rooms) the mother who has confirmed Covid-19 or is a PUI from her baby until the mother’s transmission-based precautions are discontinued,” the CDC states.

The health organisation also states that the risks and benefits of temporary separation should be discussed with the mother beforehand.

While the child is isolated in a separate room, the CDC says that healthcare facilities should consider limiting visitors, with the exception of a healthy parent or caregiver, who should be required to wear PPE.

If the baby is not separated in a different room, whether because of the mother’s wishes or because of lack of space in the hospital facility, the CDC recommends “implementing measures to reduce exposure of the newborn to the virus that causes Covid-19”.

These measures may include physical barriers between the mother and baby such as a curtain, and keeping the infant at least six feet away from the infected mother.

If there is no other healthy caretaker in the room, the CDC says the mother should wash their hands and wear a mask before having any contact with the infant.

The CDC has also outlined new guidelines for breastfeeding for mothers who are positive for coronavirus, which include using a pump to express their breast milk and then having a healthy caregiver feed the milk to the newborn.

“Prior to expressing breast milk, mothers should practice hand hygiene. After each pumping session, all parts that come into contact with breast milk should be thoroughly washed and the entire pump should be appropriately disinfected per the manufacturer’s instructions,” the guidelines state.

Prior to deciding to end the separation, which the CDC says should be decided on a case-by-case basis, a consultation should take place with clinicians, infection prevention and control specialists, and public health officials.

“The decision should take into account disease severity, illness signs and symptoms, and results of laboratory testing for the virus that causes Covid-19,” the CDC added.

Because Covid-19 is a new virus, there are still many unknowns regarding transmission of the virus, including from mothers to infants.

While some studies have suggested that it is unlikely the virus can be transferred in utero, others have found there is a possibility that mothers can transfer coronavirus to their newborns.

Currently, it is unknown whether newborns with Covid-19 are at an increased risk for severe complications, the health organisation says.

According to the CDC, the guidelines outlined are “intentionally cautious until additional data become available to refine recommendations for prevention of person-to-person transmission in inpatient obstetric care settings”.

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