Research shows COVID-19 during pregnancy is linked to stillbirth
(AP) – Pregnant women with COVID-19 face increased risk of stillbirth compared to uninfected women, and this risk has become four times higher after the emergence of the delta variant, new government data shows .
The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report on Friday that examined 1.2 million deliveries in 736 hospitals nationwide from March 2020 to September 2021.
Stillbirths were rare overall, totaling 8,154 among all deliveries. But researchers found that for women with COVID-19, about 1 in 80 births resulted in stillbirth. Among those uninfected, it was 1 in 155.
Among people with COVID-19, stillbirths were more common in people with chronic high blood pressure and other complications, including those in intensive care or on breathing apparatus.
“These findings underscore the importance of COVID-19 prevention strategies, including vaccination before or during pregnancy,” CDC researcher Carla DeSisto and her co-authors said.
There is no information on the number of people who received COVID-19 injections, although the authors noted that the vaccination rate in the United States among pregnant people after the emergence of the Delta last summer was 30%.
Pregnant people with COVID-19 are more likely than others to develop serious or even fatal illness, and they face increased risks of preterm birth and other complications. Previous studies on stillbirths and COVID-19 had mixed results, but the report bolsters obstetricians’ concerns and anecdotal data.
While the absolute risk of stillbirth is low, anyone who is pregnant should not underestimate the dangers of COVID-19, said Dr Mark Turrentine, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He helped draft the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommendations for COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy.
“What is really sad is that we have 10 months of a vaccine which has been very effective and we just cannot convince people to take advantage of it,” Turrentine said.
Some experts have speculated that the virus can cause inflammation of the placenta or other abnormalities that can harm the fetus.
Dr Joseph Biggio, a high-risk pregnancy specialist at Ochsner Health in New Orleans, said the study does not prove COVID-19 caused stillbirths. He said it is possible that some women are so seriously ill that doctors trying to keep them alive “cannot intervene on behalf of a fetus they knew to be in trouble.”
The researchers relied on medical records and noted that they were unable to determine whether the COVID-19 diagnoses listed at the time of childbirth represented current or past infections.
In general, stillbirths are more common in black people, those who become pregnant after age 35, or those who smoke tobacco during pregnancy.
The study did not include pregnancy outcomes by race, an area the authors said they plan to study in future research “because COVID-19 has disproportionately affected many racial minority groups and ethnicities, putting them at greater risk of becoming ill and dying. ”