Covid-19 and maternal and infant health: Are we getting the balance right? A rapid scoping review

Topalidou, Anastasia orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0280-6801, Thomson, Gillian orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-3392-8182 and Downe, Soo orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2848-2550 (2020) Covid-19 and maternal and infant health: Are we getting the balance right? A rapid scoping review. The Practising Midwife, 23 (7). pp. 37-45.

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Aim: The purpose of this study was to summarise the evidence of the clinical and psychological impacts of COVID-19 on perinatal women and their infants.

Methods: A rapid scoping review was conducted based on methods proposed by Arksey and O’Malley, and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) practical guide for rapid reviews. We searched EMBASE, MEDLINE(R) and MIDIRS.

Results: From 1,319 hits, 26 met the inclusion criteria and were included. Most of the studies (n=22) were from China. The majority of the publications are single case studies or case reports. The findings were analysed narratively, and six broad themes emerged. These were: Vertical transmission and transmission during birth, mother-baby separation, breastmilk, likelihood of infection and clinical picture, analgesia or anaesthesia, and infants and young children. The literature search revealed that there is very little formal evidence on the impact of COVID-19 on pregnant, labouring and postnatal women, or their babies. The clinical evidence to date suggests that pregnant and childbearing women, and their babies, are not at increased risk of either getting infected, or of having severe symptoms or consequences, when compared to the population as a whole, which contrasts with outcomes for this group in other viral pandemics. There is no evidence on the short- and longer-term psychological impacts on childbearing women during COVID-19.

Conclusion: Despite this lack of evidence, many maternity services have been imposing severe restrictions on aspects of maternity care previously acknowledged as vital to optimum health (including birth companionship, breastfeeding, and contact between mother and baby). There is a critical research gap relating to the clinical and psychological consequences of both COVID-19 and of maternity service responses to the pandemic.

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