To the best of our knowledge, the umbilical cord blood will not contain COVID-19, even if the mother is sick at the time of delivery. It is important to clarify that there is a difference between studies that look for COVID-19 disease transmission between mother and baby, versus studies that test for signs of COVID-19 in the cord blood; these are two separate topics.
When a person is sick with a respiratory virus, it is very rare for the virus to appear in their blood3,10,12. The patient’s blood will show antibodies to the virus, but not the virus itself. For this reason, the FDA does not recommend13 tests to screen asymptomatic blood donors for COVID-19. It is extremely unlikely for COVID-19 to appear in cord blood.
A 2006 study12 sponsored by the American Red Cross is almost prescient in describing the current COVID-19 pandemic. The paper predicts that during a flu pandemic, donated blood will be safe, but there will be a blood shortage due to disruption of blood center operations. That is exactly what is happening now, and in response the FDA has relaxed their restrictions on blood donors14.
Further reassurance that COVID-19 does not appear in the umbilical cord blood or birth tissues comes from a study15 of nine births in Wuhan China. The nine mothers were all suffering from COVID-19 pneumonia, and their babies were delivered via C-section. While the babies were still in the sterile operating room, and before they had contact with their mothers, samples were collected of their amniotic fluid, cord blood, and neonatal throat swabs. Later the mother’s breastmilk was collected. All of these samples tested negative for COVID-19, using both the CDC test and the hospital’s in-house RT-PCR test15.
Hence, if a mom has COVID-19 during her pregnancy or even during birth, she does not need to worry that the virus will be present in the umbilical cord blood or the tissues of the placenta and umbilical cord. To learn more about cord blood banking, visit Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation at https://parentsguidecordblood.org/en/news/coronavirus-during-pregnancy-and-cord-blood-banking