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Local study underway to see if mothers pass on coronavirus protection to babies

Cuyahoga County Board of Health joins with MetroHealth, Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals on research project.

CLEVELAND — As if pregnant moms don't have enough to worry about, now add fear of COVID-19 to the list of concerns. And many have already become infected.

"It can be pretty scary if you're pregnant with COVID-19 and am I short of breath because this is a normal sign of pregnancy or am I becoming more sick," says Dr. Rachel Pope, OB GYN at University Hospitals and a volunteer contact tracer for Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH).

That's why CCBH.net is monitoring some women with pulse oxymeters to detect changes if they have contracted COVID-19 while pregnant and if so, helping them get immediate medical care.

Dr. Pope and infectious disease specialist, Dr. Jill Miracle, are part of a research study trying to find out what the virus may be doing to a fetus or delivered baby.

"We're looking to see if there's any evidence of transmission of the virus from mom to baby either during pregnancy or during delivery," Dr. Pope said.

Once a baby is delivered, Dr. Pope says researchers at Case Western Reserve University study the placenta, umbilical cord and amniotic fluid to see what they can find related to the virus. Early findings are hopeful.

"So far we have not seen that babies are being exposed at the time of delivery but we're still waiting to get the results from the lab that will tell us if the babies are generating any immune response or any protection," Dr. Pope said.

Dr. Miracle has personally spoken to about forty of the nearly one hundred women already recruited for the study.

Each has exhibited varying levels of symptoms and severity with the infection. She's found that 30% of participants are African American and is looking into why some demographics are disproportionately impacted.

"We want to help prevent such inequities in the future," Dr. Miracle said.

She noticed that certain occupations also seem to be more at risk.

"Most notably women who work in long term care facilities, nursing homes, assisted living and group homes and a lot of times these are folks that are nursing assistants that are doing direct patient care,"

She also says that food workers, especially fast food workers have been disproportionately represented in the study and they want to see if these employees had access to adequate personal protective equipment.

Any woman delivering at MetroHealth, Cleveland Clinic or University Hospitals is welcome to become part of the study whether she has been infected with COVID-19 or not. They need virus free samples for comparison. Let your provider know if you'd like to take part or call the Cuyahoga County Board of Health at 216-201-2000 for more information.