This evidence synthesis has been compiled by members of the CITF Secretariat and does not necessarily represent the views of all CITF members.

By Marija Djekic-Ivankovic

Maternal COVID-19 infection has resulted in elevated rates of preterm birth and low birth weight. According to a recent publication in JAMA Pediatrics, exposure to maternal COVID-19 infection may have broader implications on newborns later in life, suggesting a potential risk for long-term health outcomes among these individuals. Given the novelty of the virus, evidence regarding long-term implications nevertheless remains lacking. Further longitudinal studies are required to determine if children born to mothers infected with COVID-19 face a higher risk of negative long-term health outcomes compared to counterparts born to mothers not infected with COVID-19. Available observations from life course studies in previous pandemics suggest that these infants should be followed up over a long period of time. 

Key points:

  • Premature births due to any cause are a risk for negative health outcomes later in life, such as kidney or heart disease. Notably, premature birth rates in mothers infected with COVID-19 have been observed to be significantly elevated compared to premature birth rates pre–COVID-19.
  • Evidence from the 1918 pandemic suggests that children faced various risks for future negative health outcomes depending on the timing of maternal infection.
  • Short-term effects with COVID-19 are being studied, but large-scale longitudinal studies are needed to better examine these effects over a longer period.


McCarthy J, Liu D, Kaskel F. The need for life course study of children born to mothers with prior COVID-19 infection. JAMA Pediatrics. Published online July 19, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.2423