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Pregnant women with COVID-19 at higher risk for death, worldwide study finds

Authors of a new study on the risk of COVID-19 to pregnant women say it reinforces the importance for those women to get vaccinated.


A new worldwide and peer-reviewed study has found that pregnant women are not any more likely to be infected with the coronavirus than non-pregnant women. But if they do catch the virus, they are 20 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than pregnant women who are not infected. Pregnant women and their newborns were also more likely to suffer other complications, including premature birth.

Authors of the study say it reinforces the importance of pregnant women to get the coronavirus vaccine.

The study from UW Medicine in Seattle and the University of Oxford involved 2,130 pregnant women from 43 maternity hospitals in 18 low-, middle- and high-income countries, according to UW Medicine. That includes 220 women in the U.S.

"The study is unique because each woman affected by COVID-19 was compared with two uninfected pregnant women who gave birth during the same span in the same hospital," UW Medicine said in a statement.

Researchers found pregnant women were not more likely to be infected with COVID-19. But for those who did catch it, "they are more likely to become very ill and more likely to require ICU care, ventilation, or experience preterm birth and preeclampsia," said Dr. Michael Gravett, a lead author of the study and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Pregnant women who were obese, had hypertension or diabetes were more likely to experience severe symptoms, the study found.

However, pregnant women with COVID-19 who showed no symptoms or mild symptoms were less likely to have preterm births, preeclampsia or need ICU care.

Of mothers who tested positive, 11.5% of their babies also tested positive, the study found. Babies were usually found to have mild COVID-19 infections, but Cesarean section deliveries could increase the risk of the child being infected, UW Medicine said.

The study also found breastfeeding did not appear to transmit the disease from mother to child.

The study is published in JAMA Pediatrics.