Pregnant women with COVID-19 are more likely to have stillbirths compared to uninfected women, and that risk rose to four times after the delta variant emerged, new government data shows.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report Friday examining 1.2 million births at 736 hospitals across the country from March 2020 to September 2021.
Stillbirths were generally rare, totaling 8,154 of all deliveries. But the researchers found that for women with COVID-19, about 1 in 80 deliveries resulted in stillbirth. Among the uninfected, that was 1 in 155.
Among those with COVID-19, stillbirths were more common in people with chronic high blood pressure and other complications, including those in intensive care units or on ventilators.
“These findings underscore the importance of COVID-19 prevention strategies, including vaccination before or during pregnancy,” said CDC researcher Carla DeSisto and co-authors.
There is no information on how many COVID-19 shots received, although the authors noted that vaccination rates in the US among pregnant people after delta emerged last summer was 30%.
Pregnant people with COVID-19 are more likely than others to develop a serious, even fatal disease and are at increased risk of preterm birth and other complications. Previous studies on stillbirths and COVID-19 had mixed findings, but the report reinforces concerns among midwives 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 write the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ recommendations for COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy.
“What’s really sad is that for 10 months we have a vaccine that has been very effective and we just can’t convince people to take advantage of it,” Turrentine said.
Some experts have speculated that the virus could cause inflammation in the placenta or other abnormalities that could harm the fetus.
dr. Joseph Biggio, a high-risk pregnancy specialist at Ochsner Health in New Orleans, said the study does not prove that COVID-19 caused stillbirths. He said it is possible that some women were so seriously ill that doctors trying to keep them alive “were unable to intervene on behalf of a fetus they knew was 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 delivery represented current or past infections.
In general, stillbirths are more common in black people, people over the age of 35, or people who smoke tobacco during pregnancy.
The study did not include pregnancy outcomes by race, an area the authors said they plan to explore in future research “because COVID-19 has disproportionately affected many racial and ethnic minority groups, putting them more at risk of getting sick and dying.” .”
Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner on @LindseyTanner.
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