Is Pregnancy a Risk Factor for Coronavirus?

A very important question in regards to pregnancy is whether pregnancy is a risk factor for COVID-19, in terms of being infection, severity of the disease and the death rate in mother and fetus.

The answers seems to be that yes it is a risk factor for at least severity of the disease in the mother and there is insufficient data regarding the fetus outcomes currently. A recent study from Sweden has found a five times greater risk of ICU admission and four times the risk of receiving mechanical ventilation than non pregnant women.

Now the CDC has released the results of its study lasting from January 22–June 7, as part of COVID-19 surveillance. Of the 91,412 women with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infections; nine percent were pregnant.

Among pregnant women with coronavirus, almost a third – 31.5% – reported having been hospitalised compared to almost a fifth of that amount  – 5.8% – in women who were not pregnant.  After adjustments for a variety of known risk factors such as age and other medical conditions, – the relative risk of being hospitalised for a pregnant woman was 1.5 times that of a non-pregnant woman and 1.7 times the risk for intubation and mechanical ventilation. Interestingly however the rate of death was similar suggesting that though the disease is more severe – it does not cause a higher mortality rate –

The CDC wrote that “To reduce occurrence of severe illness from COVID-19, pregnant women should be counseled about the potential risk for severe illness from COVID-19, and measures to prevent infection with COVID-19 should be emphasised for pregnant women and their families”. “We think it’s important to get the information out there that pregnant women need to take precautions,” Dana Meaney-Delman, CDC’s Covid-19 deputy incident manager, said.

The results also indicated that although data on race/ethnicity were missing for 20% of the pregnant women in the study, as with the general population, Black and Hispanic pregnant women were disproportionately impacted.

One issue with the study data needed to distinguish whether the hospitalisation was due to pregnancy related conditions or COVID-19 were not available. Also one can understand that hospitals may have a lower threshold for admitting pregnant women. However ICU admission and receipt of mechanical ventilation are distinct proxies for illness severity and the risks for both outcomes were significantly higher among pregnant women than among non-pregnant women.

The CDC further stated: “Although additional data are needed to further understand these observed elevated risks, pregnant women should be made aware of their potential risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Pregnant women and their families should take measures to ensure their health and prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

Specific actions pregnant women can take include:

  • not skipping prenatal care appointments,
  • limiting interactions with other people as much as possible,
  • taking precautions to prevent getting COVID-19 when interacting with others,
  • having at least a 30-day supply of medicines,
  • and talking to their health care provider about how to stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the agency wasn’t able to assess the effects of the virus on the fetuses or babies born to those women since the pandemic hasn’t gone on long enough, pregnant  women who get Covid 19 might have an increased risk of preterm labor and birth, when the baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. This seems to be more of a risk in people who get very sick and have pneumonia. Preterm birth can be dangerous, because babies who are born too early can have serious health problems. So it is important to talk to your doctor, nurse or midwife about any symptoms or health concerns you have, even if they don’t appear to be related to Covid 19.

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