For the first time in Israel, a fetus has died from COVID-19.
Over the weekend, a 29-year-old woman from the South arrived at Samson Assuta Ashdod Hospital after she told her doctor she did not feel her baby moving, Dr. Josef Tovbin, head of the hospital’s Labor and Delivery Ward, told The Jerusalem Post.
The hospital confirmed that the baby had no heartbeat. The woman delivered a stillborn baby, who was then tested for coronavirus and found to be positive. The hospital also tested the placenta, and coronavirus was found, as well.
According to Tovbin, the mother had felt sick for three or four days prior to visiting her doctor. She did not suspect she had coronavirus. But when they tested her, she was also found to be sick with the virus.
She had been pregnant for 25 weeks.
“The significance of getting infected is dramatic in light of my great personal loss,” the mother said in an interview with the Hebrew website Ynet. She said she observed Health Ministry regulations as much as possible.
Two weeks before arriving at the hospital, she had been examined and the baby was found to be healthy.
Prof. Arnon Wiznitzer, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva, said the case of a fetus contracting the virus, called vertical transmission, is very unusual. To date, in only between 1% and 3% of cases has a pregnant mother directly passed on the virus to her baby.
“Most of the time, the virus does not cross the placenta and does not cause any disease in the fetus,” Wiznitzer said.
Last July, the science journal Nature published an article that demonstrated a case of vertical transmission, in which the virus was found in both the mother’s side and the baby’s side of the placenta and in the amniotic fluid. The mother and baby also both tested positive for the virus via a PCR test.
Normally, the baby is infected after delivery via contact with the mother, Wiznitzer said.
During this recent wave of the pandemic, likely caused by the British variant, younger people have been getting infected, including pregnant women. Dozens of pregnant women have ended up in intensive-care units and have delivered their babies prematurely via C-section.
Genetic sequencing was not conducted to determine if the mother and baby were infected with the British variant, Tovbin said.
Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital said this was its third stillbirth by a woman with coronavirus. In the previous two, the baby was not infected.
There is concern that the British variant could lead to an increase in vertical transmission, Wiznitzer said. However, he noted that in two cases tested at Beilinson, where the pregnant woman was known to have the mutation, the virus did not pass to the unborn baby.
“We are in the process of learning the disease, so we don’t know,” he said.
“Go and get vaccinated at every stage of pregnancy,” Tovbin said. “It does not matter which trimester. If she had been vaccinated, there is a good chance she never would have been sick, and the baby would not have died.”
The mother told Ynet: “It is extremely important to get vaccinated to protect our loved ones as much as possible.”