Jan. 17, 2023 – Women infected with COVID-19 during pregnancy are seven times more likely to die during childbirth or during the pregnancy than uninfected pregnant women, a new study shows. The new report also warns of many other severe complications linked with the virus during pregnancy, as well as risks to the baby after birth.

But the researchers said they did not find that COVID-19 infection during pregnancy impacted the risk of stillbirth or a baby's growth rate during pregnancy.

The study, which was a meta-analysis of previous research, was published Monday in the journal BMJ Global Health. Data from 12 studies from 12 countries were combined so researchers could analyze outcomes for 13,136 pregnant women.

Babies born to mothers who were infected with COVID during pregnancy had almost double the risk of needing stays in the neonatal intensive care unit and also were more likely to be born preterm, compared to babies who were born to pregnant women who didn't get COVID.

The researchers also found that pregnant women who got COVID were more likely to be admitted to intensive care units, need a ventilator to help them survive, develop dangerous blood clots, or develop preeclampsia, which is a high blood pressure disorder that can be fatal for the mother or baby.

One of the strengths of the study was that it included women in different trimesters during pregnancy.

“That's something new here too is that COVID at any time during pregnancy did bring this extra risk onto mom and babies,” said lead author Emily R. Smith, ScD, MPH, assistant professor of global health at the George Washington University, in a video statement. 

The report is prompting calls for improved efforts to convince pregnant women to get vaccinated for COVID-19. The rate among them remains low: About 1 in 5 pregnant women had received the most updated COVID-19 booster as of Jan. 7, according to the CDC.

“The implications here are that it's really important that if you're pregnant or if you're thinking about becoming pregnant, to get vaccinated,” Smith said. “This can really reduce the risk of having some of these bad outcomes for mom or for baby.”

Show Sources

SOURCES:

George Washington University: “COVID-19 During Pregnancy Ramps up Serious Health Risks.”

BMJ Global Health: “Adverse maternal, fetal, and newborn outcomes among pregnant women with SARS-CoV-2 infection: an individual participant data meta-analysis.”

CDC: “COVID-19 vaccination among pregnant people aged 18-49 years overall, by race and ethnicity, and date reported to CDC - Vaccine Safety Datalink,* United States.”

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