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Infants’ brain development is not impacted by mild COVID during pregnancy

Based on findings from a thorough evaluation of brain development, Columbia researchers have discovered that children born to mothers who have mild or asymptomatic COVID during pregnancy are normal.

The results build on a smaller study that examined the development of infants born in New York City duaring the pandemic’s first wave using mother reports. According to that study, there were no differences in the brain development of infants exposed to COVID in utero compared to those who were not.

In order to make the new study COVID-safe, the researchers created a technique for watching newborns remotely and modified a developmental evaluation tool that is generally used in-person (babies were assessed between March 2021 and June 2022). Researchers looked at 407 newborns aged between and 11 months old from New York City, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Birmingham, Alabama, respectively. In total, approximately one-third of the babies were born to moms who had COVID while they were expecting them.

Each of the participating families received the same collection of baby toys and food items prior to the examination so that the researchers could uniformly monitor and compare the infants’ fine and gross motor skills. Language and cognitive abilities were also evaluated by the researchers. They were unaware of whose infants had been prenatally exposed to COVID.