The danger to baby boys of covid infection during pregnancy

The danger to baby boys of covid infection during pregnancy

New research led by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), a founding member of Mass General Brigham (MGB), in the United States, has found that males but not females born to mothers with SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy were more likely to receive a neurodevelopmental diagnosis in the first 12 months after delivery, its authors publish in the journal ‘JAMA Network Open’.

Neurodevelopmental disorders

Previous studies have found associations between other infections during pregnancy and an increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders in children, such as autism spectrum disorder, but it is unclear whether there is such a relationship with SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy.


To investigate this, scientists examined the electronic health records of. 18,355 live births during the COVID-19 pandemic, including 883 (4.8%) of individuals with SARS-CoV-2 positivity during pregnancy.

Of the 883 children exposed to the SARS-CoV-226 (3.0%) received a neurodevelopmental diagnosis during the first 12 months of life. Among unexposed children, 317 (1.8%) received such a diagnosis.

Nearly twofold increased likelihood.

After accounting for race, ethnicity, insurance status, hospital type (academic vs. community center), maternal age, and preterm status, maternal SARS-CoV-2 positivity. was associated with a nearly 2-fold increased likelihood of neurodevelopmental diagnosis at 12 months of age among male infants. However, maternal SARS-CoV-2 positivity was not associated with an increased risk in girls.

A toddler sleeping on the bed.

At 18 months, the effects were more modest in boys, and maternal SARS-CoV-2 positivity was associated with a 42% higher odds of neurodevelopmental diagnosis at that age. Too few of the mothers were vaccinated to determine whether vaccination modified risk.

“The risk of neurodevelopment associated with maternal SARS-CoV-2 infection was disproportionately high in male children, consistent with the known greater vulnerability of males to adverse prenatal exposures,” notes co-senior author Andrea Edlow, associate professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Biology. Reproductive and a specialist in Maternal-Fetal Medicine at MGH.

Co-lead author Roy Perlisassociate head of Research in the Department of Psychiatry and director of the MGH Center for Quantitative Health, notes that larger studies and longer follow-up will be needed to reliably estimate or refute the observed risk.


“We hope to continue to expand this cohort, and to follow it over time, to provide better answers about any longer-term effects,” he says.

Kayleigh Williams