Children born to mothers who contract COVID-19 during pregnancy may be more likely to develop obesity, according to a new study. More than 100 million COVID-19 cases have been reported in the United States since 2019, and there is limited information on the long-term health effects of the infection.
Pregnant women make up 9 per cent of reproductive-aged women with COVID-19, which exposes millions of babies to maternal infection during foetal development over the next five years. Our findings suggest that children exposed in utero to maternal COVID-19 have an altered growth pattern in early life that may increase their risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease over time, said Lindsay T Fourman, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Mass.
There is still a lot of research needed to understand the effects of COVID-19 on pregnant women and their children, she said.
The researchers studied 150 infants born to mothers who had COVID-19 during pregnancy and found they had lower birth weight followed by greater weight gain in the first year of life as compared to 130 babies whose mothers did not have a prenatal infection.
These changes have been associated with an increased risk for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease in childhood and beyond. Our findings emphasise the importance of long-term follow-up of children exposed in utero to maternal COVID-19 infection, as well as the widespread implementation of COVID-19 prevention strategies among pregnant individuals, said Andrea G Edlow, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital.