Pregnant women who contract SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are roughly 40% more likely to develop serious complications or die during pregnancy than those who are not infected with the virus, according to a study published Monday led by a University of Utah Health obstetrician.
The most severely ill people were three times more likely to develop pregnancy complications than those who tested negative or had milder symptoms, the study, published in the most recent edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association or JAMA, concluded.
The study sheds light on an area of previous concern. “We already knew that pregnant people are at higher risk for the complications of COVID-19 itself,” said Torri Metz, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Utah Health, who led the study.
“Our research is among the first to find that infection with SARS-CoV-2 can elevate the risk of serious consequences related to progression of common pregnancy complications such as developing high blood pressure, having postpartum bleeding, or acquiring an infection other than SARS,” she added.
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory for pregnant women, urging those who are pregnant, lactating, and trying to get pregnant to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The organization also said pregnant women with COVID-19 have a higher risk of preterm birth.
“‘Vaccination not only provides lasting protection for mothers but also antibodies that persist in a majority of infants to at least six months of age.’”
— Andrea Edlow, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital
The researchers in the latest study analyzed electronic medical records of 14,104 pregnant women treated at 17 medical centers across the U.S. that participate in the Eunice Kennedy Shriver NICHD Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units (MFMU) Network between March 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020.
Some 2,350 of these women tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 during pregnancy or within six weeks of delivery, and over 13% of those who contracted the virus developed pregnancy complications versus 9% of those who tested negative. Five maternal deaths were reported; they had all tested positive for COVID-19.
A separate study published in JAMA on Monday showed persistent antibodies in infants after their mothers received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccination during the pregnancy. The study included those vaccinated with two doses of an mRNA vaccine or infected at 20 to 32 weeks’ gestation.
Andrea Edlow, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and co-senior author, said, “The durability of the antibody response here shows vaccination not only provides lasting protection for mothers but also antibodies that persist in a majority of infants to at least six months of age.”
This week, Pfizer PFE, +0.96% and BioNTech BNTX, -0.78% asked federal regulators to authorize Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as 6 months. Those first shots could come by the end of February. Pfizer’s vaccine is currently available for 5- to 11-year-olds, in a dosage one-third of what people 12 and older receive.
As we enter Year 3 of the pandemic, COVID-19 has killed 898,216 Americans. Deaths are now averaging 2,565 per day in the U.S., an 18% increase over 14 days, according to the New York Times tracker. Hospitalizations have reached a daily average of 119,415, down 24% over the last 14 days.