Millions of people have contracted the new coronavirus, including some who are pregnant or breastfeeding. But it is still unknown if COVID-19 will affect their babies’ development, or how.
“We know very little about how this viral infection may affect the health of pregnant women, pregnancy outcomes, and development of the child,” says Patricia Janulewicz Lloyd, assistant professor of environmental health at the School of Public Health. “Numerous pregnant and nursing women will be exposed to this virus, and we need to understand the impacts this exposure may have on them and their children.”
Now, Janulewicz is part of a team investigating the short- and long-term effects of the coronavirus in pregnancy and breastfeeding as part of the MotherToBaby Pregnancy Studies.
The MotherToBaby coronavirus study is open to pregnant and breastfeeding women in the United States and Canada who suspect or have confirmed that they had COVID-19. The study itself will consist of phone calls over the course of volunteers’ pregnancies and after delivery, and/or breastmilk samples, as well as a release of medical records related to the pregnancy and the infant’s development.
Led by Christina Chambers of the University of California San Diego (UCSD), MotherToBaby is an ongoing project by birth defect researchers from the non-profit Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS). MotherToBaby studies normally focus on medications and other exposures that a woman may experience during pregnancy and breastfeeding and the developmental effects on the child.
“The MotherToBaby program has been working as a team for over a decade on similar studies, examining different exposures during pregnancy, and is ideally situated to conduct such a study on the novel coronavirus,” says Janulewicz, who serves as the associate director of MotherToBaby’s neurodevelopmental follow-up program, which assesses the long-term effects of exposures on children’s emotional, learning, memory, and other neurological development.
Janulewicz and the director of the neurodevelopmental follow-up program, Jane Adams of the University of Massachusetts Boston, will incorporate and oversee the neurodevelopmental follow-up components of later COVID-19 studies, to examine the longer-term effects of prenatal exposure to the new coronavirus.
Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers can enroll in the study at mothertobaby.org/join-study/ or by calling MotherToBaby Pregnancy Studies at (877) 311-8972.
Health care providers can refer pregnant and breastfeeding patients with known or suspected COVID-19 infection at mothertobaby.org/healthcare-professional-referral-form/ or by calling MotherToBaby Pregnancy Studies at (877) 311-8972.