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Vertical Transmission – An Overview

Pregnancy is a beautiful phase for a woman, indeed. There is another life growing inside her. Would-be mothers during pregnancy nurture their unborn baby in the best way possible. They eat the most nutritious diet and sleep well while taking care of other aspects of their mental and physical health, as it is said that the health of the baby depends on the health of the mother. But if a pregnant woman contracts certain diseases, the baby’s health is also at risk.

What is Vertical Transmission?

The transmission of infectious diseases from a mother to a child is termed as vertical transmission. There is an exchange mechanism of gases, nutritious elements and wastes via a specialized interface called the placenta. The placenta acts as a barrier that keeps the fetus safe from harmful substances, but sometimes certain infectious agents may get transferred from the mother to the fetus.

Types of vertical transmission

1. Antenatal – This transmission occurs before the birth of the child, i.e., while the fetus is in the uterus.

2. Perinatal – The transmission of infection a few weeks before or after birth is known as perinatal.

3. Postnatal – This is the term for the post-birth transmission of disease. This most commonly occurs during breastfeeding or droplet infection from the hospital staff or the relatives.

It is believed that the communication of infections can also occur during labor and delivery due to the baby’s exposure to the vaginal secretions that might be infected.

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Which diseases can be vertically transmitted?

Any infectious disease, including both viral and bacterial diseases, can be vertically transmitted. The most common infections transmitted are :

● Toxoplasma Gondii

● Other (such as syphilis, varicella-zoster, mumps, parvovirus, and HIV)


● Cytomegalovirus.

● Herpesvirus

These are often referred to by the acronym TORCH.

The other vertically communicable infectious diseases are listed below:



● Chicken Pox

● Chlamydia

Zika Virus

Symptoms of Vertical Transmission

The signs and symptoms may vary as per the disease conditions acquired.

● In the initial stage, there might be a total absence of symptoms or the presence of generalized symptoms such as weakness, lethargy, fever, and loss of appetite.

● As the disease progresses, symptoms like petechial rashes and reddish or purplish patches on the skin may appear.

● Enlargement of liver and spleen

Jaundice might occur, though it is rare

Complications Linked to Vertical Transmission

In case of delay in diagnosis or improper management, certain complications might occur:

● Hearing Impairment

● Blindness or eye complaints


● Mental retardation

● In extreme cases, even death may occur

Current scenario

In the present situation, a question has arisen if COVID 19 is vertically transmitted..

There have been mixed reports regarding the transmission of infection to the fetus, but the risk cannot be ruled out. A few cases have been reported wherein the infection was transferred to the baby from the child. But in many cases, the doctors have been able to control the infection in pregnant women and prevent vertical transmission at the same time.

Several infants have also recovered fully from COVID19 infections within a few weeks of treatment; hence the fatality rate is low. However, the doctors recommend taking adequate precautions such as frequent hand washing, masks, practising social distancing, and isolation measures.

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Treatment and Management of Vertical Transmission

The common treatment measures include:

● The antibiotics can alleviate the symptoms in most cases

● Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is advisable in the case of HIV positive patients

● Measures to adopt adequate hygiene measures during delivery

● In case of confirmation of covid19 infection or any other infectious disease, isolate yourself most strictly.

Safe motherhood is your right, as well as your duty. Vertical transmission can prove to be a fatal health hazard for you as well as your child. Taking care of your health with the guidance of your health care provider can help prevent transmission of infection.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can a COVID negative baby be born to a COVID positive mother?

Yes, a COVID positive mother can give birth to a COVID negative baby. Such instances have occurred in various cases in India as well as abroad.

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