Feb. 8, 2022
Women infected with COVID-19 have a higher chance of complications during pregnancy than women who are not infected, a study funded by the National Institutes of Health says.
The researchers found women with severe to moderate infection were more likely to require a cesarean delivery, deliver preterm, die during childbirth, or experience postpartum hemorrhaging or an infection other than COVID-19, according to an NIH news release. They’re also more likely to lose the pregnancy or have a baby die during the newborn period.
Women with mild or asymptomatic infection did not experience these pregnancy risks. Five women in the study died and had tested positive for COVID.
The study was published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It looked at 14,104 pregnant people in 17 US hospitals, with 2,352 of the women testing positive for COVID. Of the women with COVID, 80% tested positive in the third trimester, 17.6% in the second trimester, and 2.3% in the first trimester.
The babies were delivered between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, before COVID vaccines were widely available.
“The findings underscore the need for women of child-bearing age and pregnant individuals to be vaccinated and to take other precautions against becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2,” Diana Bianchi, MD, director of NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said in a news release. “This is the best way to protect pregnant women and their babies.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the COVID vaccine for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future.
In a separate NIH-funded study, researchers found that being vaccinated against COVID-19 did not reduce the chances of conception in about 2,000 couples in the study.
However, the study found COVID infection may be linked to short-term reduction in fertility in men, according to an NIH news release.
Researchers questioned 2,000 women from December 2020 through November 2021.
“Our study shows for the first time that COVID-19 vaccination in either partner is unrelated to fertility among couples trying to conceive through intercourse,” Amelia Wesselink, MD, who led the research team at Boston University School of Public Health, said in the release. “Time-to-pregnancy was very similar regardless of vaccination status.”