Neurobehavioral and Physical Consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic During Pregnancy and Childhood in a National Birth Cohort

Alan Brown, Professor of Psychiatry and Epidemiology, Department of Psychiatry

Given the intense suddenness and exponential spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the full spectrum of its consequences on neurobehavioral and physical health are only beginning to be appreciated. Among these, little is known about the effects of this virus on pregnant women, the fetus, and their infants and children. We will evaluate the impact of prenatal, and childhood, COVID-19 exposure on offspring neurodevelopmental, psychiatric, and non-psychiatric outcomes. Prior work from our group and others has demonstrated associations between maternal infections and neuropsychiatric outcomes among offspring. We shall utilize the Finnish Prenatal Studies (FiPS), derived from a large national birth cohort in Finland, with centralized medical and psychiatric registries and nearly complete ascertainment. We will compare the offspring of pregnant mothers exposed and unexposed to COVID-19 during pregnancy with regard to psychiatric and non-psychiatric outcomes from the perinatal period and follow them up during infancy and eventually to childhood. We will also evaluate whether childhood infection is related to later psychiatric and non-psychiatric outcomes. These studies offer the promise of providing urgently needed information essential to understanding the potential detrimental consequences of exposure to COVID-19 during pregnancy to women’s health and to childhood development with the promise of early preventive interventions.