Pregnant women with Covid 'seven times more likely to die'

Research shows expectant women also face greater chance of facing serious complications

The lead author of the study said: 'It’s really important that if you are pregnant ... to get vaccinated'. Getty Images
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Pregnant women with Covid are seven times more likely to die and face a substantially higher risk of suffering from serious complications, a large-scale global analysis has found.

Expectant mothers infected by Covid-19 are more than three times more likely to be admitted to intensive care and 15 times more likely to require a ventilator to help them breathe.

They face a 23 times higher risk of developing pneumonia and are five times more likely to suffer from blood clots.

The study also suggests having Covid during pregnancy also increases the risk that the baby will need to be admitted to intensive care.

Emily Smith, assistant professor of global health at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health and lead author of the study, said: “The implications here are that it’s really important that if you are pregnant, or you are thinking about becoming pregnant, to get vaccinated.

“This can really reduce the risk of having some of these bad outcomes for mum or for baby.”

The analysis was based on 12 studies involving more than 13,000 pregnant women in Ghana, China-Hong Kong, Italy, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Turkey, Uganda and the US.

“Our new study is one of the biggest to look globally at people who are pregnant and compare them between people who had Covid and didn’t have Covid in pregnancy,” Ms Smith said.

“One of the strengths of this particular study is that we had data from all over the world.”

The research also included data from women in all three trimesters, proving that having Covid “at any time in pregnancy did bring this extra risk on to the mum and the baby”.

“We found that women who had Covid in pregnancy were at greater risk of ending up in the ICU or even dying, or having some pregnancy-related problems, like pre-eclampsia, as compared to their peers, who were pregnant at the same time but didn’t get Covid.

“So we also found out that mums who had Covid in pregnancy, their babies were more likely to be born too soon or preterm and the babies had an increased risk of ending up in the [neonatal] ICU.”

Babies born to women who were infected with Covid were almost twice as likely to be admitted to an NICU after birth. They were also at higher risk of being born prematurely.

A pregnant woman is inoculated with Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid vaccine in Medellin, Colombia. AFP

Pre-term babies are at high risk of having lifelong health problems including delays in early childhood cognitive development, Ms Smith said.

Despite the serious health risks, more than 80 countries still do not recommend that all pregnant and lactating women get the Covid vaccine, said the assistant professor.

While it was hard to put together the evidence in the past, she said this meta-analysis provided public health officials and the public with clear, consistent and compelling findings.

Studies have repeatedly found Covid vaccines are safe in pregnancy.

A study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal in August last year also found lower rates of health events after vaccination than similarly aged, non-pregnant vaccinated people.

The study was one of the first to look at vaccine side effects in a group of vaccinated pregnant women, as well as unvaccinated pregnant women and a group of vaccinated non-pregnant people to enable comparisons between the three.

In total, 2.1 per cent of unvaccinated pregnant women and 1.5 per cent of vaccinated pregnant women experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth within seven days after a dose one of any mRNA vaccine.

An earlier study from Israel found that pregnant women who were vaccinated against Covid-19 could pass on protection to their babies.

Antibodies were detected in all 20 women who were administered both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine during their third trimester of pregnancy and, through placental transfer, in their newborn babies, the research carried out in February 2021 indicated.

Updated: January 16, 2023, 11:31 PM
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