Researchers from the University of Oxford, in collaboration with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Universities of Leeds and Birmingham, Kings and Imperial Colleges London, have published new research that suggests pregnant women are no more likely to become ill with severe COVID-19 than non-pregnant woman. However, the majority of women who did become severely ill were in their third trimester of pregnancy, emphasising the importance of social distancing for this group.
The analysis also showed that older pregnant women, those who were overweight or obese, and pregnant women who had pre-existing medical problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, were more likely to be admitted to hospital with the infection. Women who were admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in pregnancy were less likely to smoke than a group of comparison pregnant women.
Other important findings from the study include:
One in five babies born to mothers hospitalised with COVID-19 were born pre-mature and were admitted to a neonatal unit. One in twenty babies born had a positive test for COVID-19, but only half of them immediately after birth.
Sixty percent of the women admitted to hospital have now given birth, while the remaining forty percent have ongoing pregnancies. Most women have now been discharged home. Around one in 10 women required intensive care, and sadly five women have died.
Outcomes for babies born to mothers with COVID-19 were mostly good. Although almost one in five were born prematurely and were admitted to a neonatal unit, fewer than twenty babies were born very premature (when their mothers were less than 32 weeks pregnant). One in twenty babies born had a positive test for COVID-19, but only half of these babies had positive test immediately after birth, suggesting that transmission of infection from mother to baby is low.
Professor Marian Knight, Professor of Maternal and Child Population Health at the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford and lead investigator for the study, said, ‘A very small number of pregnant women do become severely ill with COVID-19 and sadly some women have died. Our thoughts must remain with their families. It is concerning that more pregnant women from black and minority ethnic groups are admitted with COVID-19 in pregnancy and this needs urgent investigation.
‘Most pregnant women who were admitted to hospital were more than six months pregnant, which emphasises the importance of continued social distancing measures in the later stages of pregnancy. Following the current guidance about careful social distancing will help prevent infection.’
Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and an author on the study, said, ‘Admission with infection in pregnancy is also associated with older maternal age, overweight and obesity, and the presence of pre-existing medical conditions. Awareness of these factors is important for both women and their doctors and midwives to help ensure women receive appropriate advice about prevention and complications of COVID-19 are recognised early. Detailed advice and guidance for women is available on the RCOG website.’
Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said, ‘During this current crisis, pregnancies have continued, babies have been born, and, throughout it all, midwives have been at their side, supporting and caring for them. It’s absolutely vital that women continue to attend antenatal appointments to ensure that they and their babies are well. Staying in touch with their maternity services team will help put any concerns at ease and enable them to act quickly when necessary.’
Information for the study was collected using a research system called the UK Obstetric Surveillance System (UKOSS). The study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research in 2012 in preparation for the possibility of a pandemic, to ensure we could collect accurate information to advise pregnant women, their midwives and doctors. It was activated in March and the information has been being used to guide the ongoing response. This study is one of a number of COVID-19 studies that have been given urgent public health research status by the Chief Medical Officer/ Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England.
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that as the outbreak of the corona virus global epidemic in developing countries increases, officials are particularly concerned about the inconsistent effects of the infection on certain populations. These include women who are “at increased risk” of dying during childbirth.
Secretary-General Tedros Adhanom Gebreyes said in a press conference on Friday that the WHO is particularly concerned about the impact “on those who struggle to access health services .. such as women, children and adolescents.”
Taderos said the global epidemic has severely affected health systems in many countries and cautioned that many women may have an increased risk of dying during childbirth.
He said that the United Nations Health Agency recently investigated the risk of spreading corona virus from mothers to their newborns and found that the benefit of breastfeeding outweighs the risk of spreading the virus. It was also seen in pregnant women who are infected or who are suspected of infection.
He said that WHO is also concerned about young people who are sensitive to restlessness and depression. The organization noted that in some countries more than a third of adolescents are provided special mental health support in school.
So, women should avoid pregnancy and sometimes sex also, as the new born babies are at the highest risk. In March, New York City officials released guidelines for pandemic sex, declaring masturbation is the safest way to avoid the coronavirus and denouncing sex acts like “rim jobs”.