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COVID-19 in mother can affect brain development of boys

April 18, 2023 – A brand new study found that boys of moms who've had COVID-19 are twice as prone to suffer from brain development problems as others.

The study involved greater than 18,000 children born at eight Massachusetts hospitals, nearly 900 of whom were born to women who contracted COVID-19 while pregnant.

The male babies were more liable to numerous developmental disorders in the primary 18 months of life, says the studypublished in JAMA network opened. It analyzed electronic health records.

The problems included delays in language and speech development, psychological development, motor skills and mental abilities.

These problems could also be related to autism in older children, but “it is far too early to reliably diagnose autism in the children studied,” said Roy Perlis, MD NPRPerlis is a co-author of the report and a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“All we can detect right now are more subtle things like delays in language development and speech and delays in motor milestones,” he said. “Most children of mothers who have had COVID during pregnancy will not suffer neurodevelopmental disabilities, although the risk does increase somewhat.”

Other studies have shown that maternal infections can affect fetal brain development, especially in boys, NPR reported.

“If a mother had SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy and had a boy, her 12-month-old child was 94% more likely to be diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder,” said Dr. Andrea Edlow, lead creator and maternal-child medicine specialist at Mass General.

The virus that causes COVID-19 doesn't often infect the fetus, she said. The risk to the fetus appears to come back from the mother's immune response, not from the infection itself.