Aim: The aim of this narrative review was to evaluate the risks, both direct and indirect, to the foetus from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Methods: Direct and indirect risks were defined as (a) vertical infection (congenital or intrapartum), (b) maternal infection and its sequelae, and (c) sources of maternal stress during lockdown, including social isolation and altered healthcare provision.
Results: Early studies suggest that vertical viral transmission is low; however, there may be an important effect of maternal infection on foetal growth and development. The impact of various degrees of lockdown on prospective mothers’ health, habits and healthcare provision is of concern. In particular, increased maternal stress has been shown to have a significant effect on foetal brain development increasing the risk of mental health, and cognitive and behavioural disorders in later life.
Conclusion: From the evidence available to date, direct risks to the foetus from the SARS-CoV-2 virus are low. Indirect effects of the pandemic, particularly resulting from the effect of maternal stress on the developing brain, can have lifelong detrimental impacts for this generation of children.