Edinburgh, Scotland (StudyFinds.org) – COVID-19 during pregnancy can lead to long-term birth complications, new study finds.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh found an increased risk of preterm birth, stillbirth and newborn death in women infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) 28 days before their due date. Most women with complications related to COVID-19 were more likely to be unvaccinated.
The results suggest that safety measures to prevent infection, such as e.g. vaccination against COVID-19, are crucial for protecting the health of newborns. Researchers stress the need for more effort to encourage vaccination of pregnant women. Researchers note that despite the risk of vaccination, expectant mothers have lower vaccination rates than the general population severe complications for mother and child.
“It is clear that vaccination is the safest and most effective way for pregnant women to protect themselves and their babies from serious illness from Covid-19,” says study co-author Rachael Wood, consultant at Public Health Scotland, in one university clearance. “Vaccination can be given at any stage of pregnancy, so I strongly encourage women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant to do so get fully vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Only 1 in 3 pregnant women is vaccinated
Between December 2020 and October 2021, the research team collected hospitalization and vaccination data from over 87,000 pregnant women living in Scotland.
As of October 2021, only 32 percent of pregnant women received their full COVID vaccination, compared to 77 percent of those non-pregnant women between 18 and 44 years. Since the introduction of vaccines started in Scotland, there have been 4,950 COVID-19 cases among pregnant women.
About 77 percent of these cases during pregnancy affect unvaccinated women. Twelve percent of pregnant women with COVID-19 had one dose of vaccine or tested positive for COVID 14 days before their second dose.
The risk of perinatal death increases
while watching perinatal deaths – a baby who then dies in the womb 24 weeks gestation or within 28 days of delivery — the team found a worrying association with COVID-19 infection rates. For every 1,000 births, the team recorded 23 perinatal deaths. However, all perinatal deaths were in unvaccinated women.
The study also finds that the number of preterm births in women with COVID increased by 17 percent three weeks before their due date. The overall perinatal mortality rate in Scotland is six per 1,000 births and the preterm birth rate is typically eight per cent.
Unvaccinated pregnant women were more likely than vaccinated pregnant women to require hospitalization and intensive care. About 98 percent of hospital admissions of pregnant women admitted to the ICU were for unvaccinated patients.
The study appears in the journal naturopathy.