Although other studies have looked at COVID-19’s effects on pregnant women, this is among the first study to have a concurrent control group with which to compare outcomes, said Dr. Michael Gravett, one of the study’s lead authors.
“The No. 1 takeaway from the research is that pregnant women are no more likely to get COVID-19, but if they get it, they are more likely to become very ill and more likely to require ICU care, ventilation, or experience preterm birth and preeclampsia,” he said. Gravett is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Co-investigator Dr. Lavone Simmons is a UW acting assistant professor of OB-GYN.
One caveat, Gravett noted, was that women whose COVID-19 was asymptomatic or mild were not found to be at increased risk for ICU care, preterm birth or preeclampsia. About 40% of the women in this study were asymptomatic. Pregnant women who were obese or had hypertension or diabetes were at the greatest risk for severe disease, the findings showed.
Babies of the women infected with COVID-19 were more likely to be born preterm; but their infections were usually mild, the study found. Breastfeeding seemed not to be related to transmitting the disease. Delivery by Caesarean section, however, might be associated with an increased risk of having an infected newborn, the study found.
Gravett suggested that these and parallel research findings compelled U.S. states’ decisions to open vaccine eligibility to pregnant women – who were initially considered a population at low risk for severe COVID-19.
“I would highly recommend that all pregnant women receive the COVID-19 vaccines,” based on this research, he said.