In Depth

COVID-19 unlikely to cause birth defects, but doctors await fall births

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Science  07 Aug 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6504, pp. 607
DOI: 10.1126/science.369.6504.607


Birth defects commonly arise during the first trimester of pregnancy, when tissues and organs take shape and before the placenta is fully formed as a barrier to viral invasion of the fetus. And blood-borne viruses like rubella and Zika are well known to cause birth defects when they invade the fetus early in pregnancy. But experts are cautiously optimistic that this will not be the case with the new coronavirus, in part because it appears that it rarely travels through the blood. Still, they caution that definitive knowledge awaits the births, beginning soon, of women who were infected early in their pregnancies. "If you have COVID-19 at 8 weeks during embryonic development, what is the outcome for that baby? That's data that needs time to gestate," says Yalda Afshar, a high-risk obstetrician at Ronald Reagan University of California, Los Angeles, Medical Center who herself is expecting her first baby in October.

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