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'I cried because I could not hold her': Baby born with COVID-19 after contracting the virus while in mother's womb

Parkland Hospital doctors believe a baby born in their hospital contracted COVID-19 while in mother's womb. This was a first-of-its-kind case.

Wendy Figueroa was 34 weeks pregnant. She was still six weeks away from her due date when she tested positive for COVID-19. 

“I was surprised I had COVID. I never imagined that. I had a fever and a headache,” said Figueroa. 

That was April 30. Two days later, baby Alexa had to be delivered prematurely. 

Dr. Mambarambath Jaleel runs the Parkland Neonatal ICU.

“We immediately separated baby from mother. Mom was wearing a mask during delivery to reduce transmission,” said Dr. Mamarambath Jaleel.

“I could not see my daughter. They took her from me. I could only see her from far away. I could not hold her. I cried,” said Figueroa.

Parkland doctors say baby Alexa tested positive for COVID within 24 hours.

“She turned out to be positive during a 24-hour test and then a 48-hour test,” said Dr. Jaleel.

Surprised by the results, they also tested the mother's placenta.

"Having the testing positive of the placenta, the most likely explanation was the transmission of infection was when the baby was in the mother's womb,” said Dr. Jaleel.

Doctors believe she was the first baby in the nation to contract COVID while in her mother's womb.

“After about a day or two, she started developing fever and also had some low oxygen and required supplemental oxygen,” said Dr. Jaleel. 

Dr. Jaleel said since they began tracking COVID cases, 128 pregnant women at Parkland have tested positive for the virus. Six of those mothers have since had babies test positive for COVID, but only baby Alexa got sick.

Figueroa said she cried every day for 20 straight days because she couldn't hold her baby.

During that time, Parkland caretakers figured out a way mom could at least see her little girl. 

Marjorie Quint-Bouzid is the VP for Parkland Nursing, Women’s and Infant Specialty Health.

"We got to a point where we even had an iPad and the nurses would leave the I-pad on the incubator throughout the day so mom while we cared for baby mom would see baby and see what was going on,” said Quint-Bouzid.

It was an emotional reunion when after three weeks, Figueroa was able to hold baby Alexa.

"When I held my daughter for the first time at that moment nothing else mattered,” said Figueroa.

She said a week after they came home, she had Alexa baptized and said she thanked God they both recovered from COVID-19.

Dr. Jaleel said there is not enough data and information yet about the long term impact on COVID and babies, and he said there need to be more studies done. 

He co-authored a paper that was published July 10 in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.

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