Pandemic babies are displaying developmental delays study finds
There is no denying that the pandemic has upended normal life for most people across the globe.
People have died, been ill, lost their jobs, missed their loved ones, missed school, longed for time with friends, felt isolated and had their lives changed in so many ways.
And now scientists have discovered that even babies have felt the stress, with some born during the coronavirus pandemic experiencing slight developmental delays.
In some new research published this week, a group of US researchers studied 255 infants born between March and December 2020 and found that average developmental scores among babies born during the pandemic, whether their mothers had COVID-19 during pregnancy or not, were lower than the gross motor, fine motor and social skills of pre-pandemic babies.
The findings, suggest assistant professor of paediatrics and psychiatry at Columbia University, Dani Dumitriu, suggest that the significant amount of stress felt by pregnant mothers during the pandemic may have played a role.
Dumitriu, who was the lead researcher on the study, explains:
“The developmental trajectory of an infant begins before birth. With potentially millions of infants who may have been exposed to COVID in utero, and even more mothers just living through the stress of the pandemic, there is a critical need to understand the neurodevelopmental effects of the pandemic on future generations."
Dumitriu and her team's groundbreaking research indicate that the womb of a mother experiencing the pandemic was associated with slightly lower scores in areas like motor and social skills.
This, the scientist explains, lines up with findings from previous studies that have shown that maternal stress in the earliest stages of pregnancy can have a bigger effect on socioemotional functioning in infants than stress later in pregnancy.
“These small shifts warrant careful attention because at the population level, they can have a significant public health impact. We know this from other pandemics and natural disasters,” Dumitriu says.