Is COVID More Severe When You’re Pregnant?

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Update Date 13/09/2020 . 4 mins read
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Expectant mothers do everything to make sure that their babies will be born healthy. They do regular visits to the doctor for prenatal check-ups and eat a well-balanced diet. They even take supplements to boost their baby’s health. In this time of pandemic, the concern for their little one’s well-being has probably doubled. What if they contract the COVID-19 virus? Will pregnant women with COVID symptoms be severely ill?

How Does COVID-19 Affect Pregnancy?

Pregnant moms are probably asking, will the coronavirus cause harm to my baby?

Before we answer that concern, let’s first highlight that since COVID-19 is relatively new, the data about it, especially in connection with pregnancy, is still incomplete. As of now, experts are being “cautiously positive” that the infection will not negatively affect fetal development. That doesn’t mean though, that complications won’t happen. In fact, according to the CDC, COVID infection may bring about adverse pregnancy outcomes like preterm birth.

Another thing worth noting is that the mother can potentially transmit the virus to her baby during pregnancy or delivery.

With this in mind, pregnant moms need to be more cautious. Especially since recent studies show that they are at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms of the coronavirus infection.

what to do if you're pregnant with covid

What Do Studies Say about COVID-19 and Pregnancy?

Now, we’ll talk about three separate studies. The goal of these studies is to determine if COVID-19 infection is more severe for pregnant patients. To do this, the researchers analyzed the data from pregnant women with COVID infection

The Study in the United States

In one huge study, the experts examined the data from 8,200 pregnant women and 83,200 non-pregnant ladies. Their age ranged from 15 to 44 years old and all of them tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

The results of the analysis showed that 1/3 of pregnant participants needed hospitalization while only 6 % of non-pregnant women required confinement. However, there’s a tricky part. The researchers admitted that they couldn’t “distinguish” between the reasons for hospitalization. It could be because of COVID symptoms, but it could also be due to pregnancy-related procedures.

However, they found out that pregnant women with COVID symptoms are more likely to need admission to the ICU. They would also require mechanical ventilation more than non-pregnant participants. To be specific, the experts revealed that 1.5% of pregnant women were confined in the ICU, while only 0.9% of non-pregnant women needed such confinement. Furthermore, 0.5% of pregnant women required mechanical ventilators, compared to only 0.3% of non-pregnant participants.

In this regard, the authors of the study stated that both the need for mechanical ventilation and the admission in the ICU were “distinct proxies for illness severity” for the coronavirus infection.

Finally, the study showed that the death rate was the same between pregnant and non-pregnant patients.

The Study in Sweden

Aside from the abovementioned research, there was also a study in Sweden.  The research aimed to determine if pregnancy causes more severe COVID symptoms. However, this study is so much smaller than the one done in the United States.

In this research, the authors calculated the rate of ICU admission among COVID-infected pregnant and non-pregnant women. During the time of the study, there were only 13 COVID-positive pregnant patients and 40 infected, non-pregnant women.

Results showed that the infected, pregnant participants are 6 times more likely to be admitted in the ICU than the non-pregnant patients.

The Study in the United Kingdom

The research in the United Kingdom had 427 COVID-positive pregnant participants. Most of them only needed care in the ward. However, 1 in 10 participants required confinement in the intensive care unit. Unfortunately, 5 of the patients died, although the experts were unable to determine if the cause of death was COVID-related.

What the study emphasized is this: many of the women who had severe symptoms were in their third trimester. Furthermore, the following factors may also cause severe COVID infections among pregnant women:

  • Being 35 and above
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having an underlying health problem

what to do if you're pregnant with covid

Possible Reasons Why COVID is More Severe During Pregnancy

But, why does a pregnant patient with COVID infection more likely to have severe symptoms?

According to experts, the reason could be two-fold.

First, pregnant women already have compromised immunity. This is because the mother’s body doesn’t want to have an “anti-fetal immune response”. To preserve the baby’s health, the mother’s immunity, though not disabled, is partially reduced.

The second reason has something to do with the infection itself.

As we all know, the COVID-19 infection is notorious for attacking the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.

Now, think about this: pregnancy often leaves a woman short of breath. Why? Because the growing uterus leaves less room for the lungs. Furthermore, the cardiovascular system is already working twice as hard. This is to compensate for the oxygen needs of both mother and  baby.

In other words, pregnancy already strains these two systems. The added burden of COVID-19 infection certainly wouldn’t help.

What to do if you’re Pregnant in this Time of COVID Pandemic

To protect yourself and your little one, take the following measures:

  • Clean and disinfect frequently-held objects like phones, countertops, and doorknobs.
  • Prepare 30 days’ worth of medicines.
  • Limit your contact with other people.
  • If you need to interact with others, take all the necessary precautions.
  • This includes mask-wearing, frequent hand washing, and avoiding touching the face, particularly the mouth, nose, and eyes.
  • Stay 6 feet away from others.
  • Most importantly, do not interact with sick people.

Is Home Birth Safer During COVID-19?

Finally, pregnant women, even in this time of COVID, should not skip their prenatal check-ups. They should also be attentive to their health on a daily basis. They can do this by checking for symptoms like fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you suspect COVID infection, report immediately, but strictly follow the protocols set by the authorities in your area.

Learn more about COVID-19 here

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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