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According to a new study, COVID-19 infection during pregnancy is not linked to stillbirth or early death of the newborn.
However, the study of over 4,000 pregnant women with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 also found that women with a positive test were more likely to have premature birth.
The research, led by scientists from Imperial College London and published in the journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology, used data from the UK and the US.
The study team looked at data from 4004 pregnant women who suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Of these women, 1606 came from the UK from a data register called PAN-COVID, while 2398 came from the US from the SONPM data register of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
PAN-COVID was funded by the Medical Research Council, the UK National Institute for Health Research and the NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Center.
All women gave birth between January and August 2020.
The investigation found that no babies died from COVID-19 in the study. There was also no increase in the risk of stillbirth or low birth weight.
However, both UK and US data suggest a higher risk of premature birth (defined as birth before 37 weeks).
In the UK data, 12 percent of women with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 had a premature delivery – 60 percent more than the national average of 7.5 percent. In the US data, 15.7 percent of women had a premature birth, 57 percent more than the US national average of 10 percent.
The study team says part of that association may have been due to doctors choosing to deliver the baby early because of concerns about the effects of COVID-19 infection on mother and child. The rate of spontaneous premature births was lower than expected.
Professor Christoph Lees, senior author of the study in the Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction at Imperial, said: "To find that COVID-19 infection does not increase the risk of stillbirth or child death is reassuring. A suspected or Confirmed COVID diagnosis was linked to a higher risk of premature birth, and it's not entirely clear why. "
Dr. Ed Mullins, co-author of Imperial's Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction, added: "This study supports the prioritization of vaccination for pregnant women or women trying to conceive, as well as existing measures to protect women from infection during pregnancy, to reduce premature birth. "
The proportion of babies born to mothers with confirmed COVID-19 who subsequently tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus (which causes COVID-19) was 2 percent in the UK study and 2 percent in the US study 1.8 percent.
The majority of the women in the study did not have any pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes or respiratory diseases such as asthma.
In the UK study, eight of the women died while in the US study four women died.
The study team says that while these death rates in childbearing women are higher than expected, they are similar to expected death rates in adults with confirmed COVID-19 infection. This suggests that pregnant women are no greater risk of dying from COVID-19 than women who are not pregnant.
Among the women in the British arm of the study, 66.5 percent were European or North American, 1.9 percent were Middle Easterners, 1.1 percent were North Africans, 4.2 percent were Sub-Saharan or Caribbean Africans, and 7.5 percent were from the Indian subcontinent and 9.2 percent were Southeast Asian. In the United States, 37 percent were white, 25 percent black or African, 4.1 percent Asian, 0.4 percent Indian or Alaskan.
Professor Fiona Watt, Executive Chair of the Medical Research Council, who helped fund the study, said, "It is obviously important to understand how COVID-19 affects different groups of people. We are proud to have funded this study, In the past year, researchers monitored the health of a significant number of pregnant women and their babies.The study found that women who contracted COVID-19 while pregnant were not at increased risk of stillbirth and early death Newborn babies are reassuring but the study highlights the need for further investigation to determine whether or how COVID-19 affects maternal outcomes or premature birth. "
The American Academy of Pediatrics' SONPM data registry was headed by Professor Mark Hudak.
The Center for Trials Research at Cardiff University was responsible for setting up the online database, data management and statistical analysis. Julia Townson, Senior Research Fellow and Co-Author at Cardiff University, said: "I am delighted that Cardiff University's Center for Trials Research has been able to collaborate with Imperial College London on this important research. It was a mammoth team. which requires a quick construction of the database and the website as well as the cleaning and analysis of the data. "
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Imperial College London
COVID-19 Infection in Pregnancy Not Associated with Stillbirth or Baby Death (2021, February 23)
accessed on February 23, 2021
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