Lindsay T. Fourman, MD

Lindsay T. Fourman, MD and Andrea G. Edlow, MD are co-authors of a new study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Accelerated Longitudinal Weight Gain Among Infants with In Utero COVID-19 Exposure.

What was the question you set out to answer with this study?

Our team sought to investigate whether individuals born to mothers with COVID-19 in pregnancy exhibit different growth patterns in the first year of life compared to individuals born to mothers without prenatal COVID-19.

Andrea Edlow, MD, MSc

Our team conducted a longitudinal cohort study leveraging a prospectively enrolled perinatal biorepository among 149 infants with in utero COVID-19 exposure and 127 unexposed controls. Weight, length, and BMI were abstracted from health records at 0, 2, 6, and 12 months and standardized using WHO growth charts.

What Methods or Approach Did You Use?

We utilized the Mass General Brigham COVID-19 Perinatal Biorepository and medical records to compare longitudinal growth trajectories over the first twelve months among infants with versus without in utero exposure to maternal COVID-19.

Our use of the MGB Biorepository was a strength of our study given that the COVID-19 status of the mother in pregnancy was assured and all mothers were pregnant during the pandemic to control for the potentially confounding impact of pandemic-associated stress.

What Did You Find?

We found that infants born to mothers with COVID-19 during pregnancy had a lower birth weight followed by accelerated weight gain in the first year of life as compared to unexposed infants.

What are the Implications?

Lower birth weight and accelerated postnatal weight gain are risk factors for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease later in life. Accordingly, our findings point to a potentially increased risk of cardiometabolic disease for the large global population of children with in utero exposure to maternal COVID-19.

These associations should be examined in larger studies, and children born to mothers with COVID-19 during pregnancy will need to be followed for longer intervals to understand whether there are enduring impacts of fetal exposure to maternal infection on cardiometabolic health.

Our findings provide a compelling rationale for future research on long-term health sequelae among children born to mothers with COVID-19, including prospective studies involving larger cohorts and detailed cardiometabolic assessments.

Paper cited:

Ockene, M. W., Russo, S. C., Lee, H., Monthé-Drèze, C., Stanley, T. L., Ma, I. L., Toribio, M., Shook, L. L., Grinspoon, S. K., Edlow, A. G., & Fourman, L. T. (2023). Accelerated Longitudinal Weight Gain Among Infants With In Utero COVID-19 Exposure. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, dgad130. Advance online publication.

About the Massachusetts General Hospital

Massachusetts General Hospital, founded in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The Mass General Research Institute conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the nation, with annual research operations of more than $1 billion and comprises more than 9,500 researchers working across more than 30 institutes, centers and departments. In July 2022, Mass General was named #8 in the U.S. News & World Report list of "America’s Best Hospitals." MGH is a founding member of the Mass General Brigham healthcare system.