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 fetal 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 lower birth weight followed by greater weight gain in the first year of life 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.
“Larger studies with longer follow-up duration are needed to confirm these associations,” she said.
The study was published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.