The pandemic is impacting infants born in New York in unpredictable ways.

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Columbia Univsierty researchers found babies born in New York during the peak of the pandemic are developing slower than babies born before the start of the pandemic.

The findings were recently published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

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Columbia researchers studied 255 babies born in the country's then COVID-19 epicenter, New York City, between March and December 2020.

The children studied were born at New York-Presbyterian’s Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Allen Hospital, officials say.

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The findings were recently published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

“The developmental trajectory of an infant begins before birth,” Dani Dumitriu, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and lead investigator of the study stated. “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.”

The study found that babies born during the pandemic's first-year scored lower on a developmental screening test of social and motor skills at 6 months than babies born prior to the pandemic.

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Columbia researchers studied 255 babies born in the country's then COVID-19 epicenter, New York City, between March and December 2020.

“These were not large differences, meaning we did not see a higher rate of actual developmental delays in our sample of a few hundred babies, just small shifts in average scores between the groups,” Dumitriu added. “But 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.”

The infants in the study were shown to have a slight delay at six months on social, communication and motor skills, such as the ability to roll on their backs to stomachs and how frequently they babble.

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The study found that babies born during the pandemic's first-year scored lower on a developmental screening test of social and motor skills at 6 months than babies born prior to the pandemic.

“We were surprised to find absolutely no signal suggesting that exposure to COVID while in utero was linked to neurodevelopmental deficits. Rather, being in the womb of a mother experiencing the pandemic was associated with slightly lower scores in areas such as motor and social skills, though not in others, such as communication or problem-solving skills. The results suggest that the huge amount of stress felt by pregnant mothers during these unprecedented times may have played a role," Dumitriu said.

The findings were regardless of whether their mothers had COVID during pregnancy, officials say. About 50 percent of the mothers in the study had COVID while pregnant, though most had mild symptoms or were asymptomatic.

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The infants in the study were shown to have a slight delay at six months on social, communication and motor skills, such as the ability to roll on their backs to stomachs and how frequently they babble.

“Infants born to mothers who have viral infections during pregnancy have a higher risk of neurodevelopmental deficits, so we thought we would find some changes in the neurodevelopment of babies whose mothers had COVID during pregnancy,” Dumitriu added.

Researchers note the findings in this small study don't "necessarily mean that this generation will be impaired later in life." It also remains unclear if the infants in the study will have long-term delays in development.

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