By Robert Preidt
Researchers analyzed data from a coronavirus screening program in the labor and delivery unit of Elmhurst Hospital in New York City during March and April.
Of the 130 pregnant women screened, one-third tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Of the women who tested positive, 72% didn't have any COVID-19 symptoms, according to the Mount Sinai Health System study. It was published recently in the journal PLOS ONE.
The study also found that women who tested positive were more likely to identify as Hispanic and report Spanish as their primary language.
The results provide more proof that there was early and widespread asymptomatic spread of the virus when most community and hospital testing was restricted to people with symptoms, the researchers said.
"This study is instructive for other labor and delivery units and hospitals across the world as we continue to refine pandemic preparedness," said researcher Dr. Sheela Maru, an assistant professor of global health, and obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
"In future epidemics, it may be prudent to look at labor and delivery screening numbers much earlier on, as pregnant women continue to seek essential care despite social distancing measures and also represent the general young and healthy community population," Maru said in a Mount Sinai news release..
The researchers noted that the rate of infection among pregnant women at Elmhurst was higher than in other New York City hospitals during the city's pandemic surge in the spring, and this was likely due to the type of patients seen at the hospital.
Elmhurst is a public hospital that largely serves immigrant and low-income patients who were severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic in the spring, the study authors explained.
They noted that universal screening in Elmhurst's labor and delivery unit ensured the safety of patients and staff through identification and isolation of pregnant women who tested positive for the coronavirus.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19 and pregnancy.
SOURCE: Mount Sinai Health System, news release, Dec. 11, 2020