Large study confirms COVID risk to pregnant people, infants

Getting COVID while pregnant raises the risk of death more than sevenfold compared to a pregnancy without infection, according to a new analysis in BMJ Global Health.
COVID also amplified risk for developing pneumonia, needing a ventilator, or being admitted to intensive care among pregnant people. Babies of infected mothers were more likely to be born preterm or require intensive care after birth.
The researchers, led by Emily Smith of George Washington University, analyzed 12 different studies covering more than 13,000 pregnant women, of whom about 2,000 had COVID. The research covered 12 nations including parts of Africa, Europe, Asia, and the United States.
“Having COVID and pregnancy increases risk for both mom and baby,” Smith told Brenda Goodman at CNN. “It’s consistent, you know, whether we’re talking about Sweden where we have really generally great pregnancy outcomes to other countries that, you know, have bigger problems with maternal morbidity and mortality.”
The pregnancies in the study spanned February 2020 to July 2021, before many people were vaccinated and before the omicron era. Thus, it’s not clear what the risk of infection is for pregnant people today, when most people have had some immune exposure by way of vaccines or the virus itself. More than 70% of pregnant people in the U.S. are now vaccinated, according to CDC data.
Then again, that immunity can wane, and fewer than 20% of pregnant people have received the latest booster shot.
Vaccination rates are highest among Asian and white pregnant people, and below average for Black and Hispanic pregnant people.
Smith told The Washington Post’s Sabrina Malhi that the low vaccination rates among pregnant people may be due to “the assumption that if a person is pregnant, they are probably young and for the most part healthy.”
Many pregnant people have also fallen prey to misinformation about the vaccine during pregnancy.
“Even if there is confidence overall in vaccines for adults, hesitancy can emerge when someone is having a child or trying to become pregnant,” Malhi writes.
In addition, Dr. Jennifer Lighter of NYU noted that some gynecologists and obstetricians are not placing a high enough priority on getting their patients vaccinated.