COVID Increases Risk of Pregnancy Complications, Study Says

Ralph Ellis

February 09, 2022

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Women infected with COVID-19 have a higher chance of complications during pregnancy than women who are not infected, a study funded by the National Institutes of Health says.

The researchers found women with severe to moderate infection were more likely to require a cesarean delivery, deliver preterm, die during childbirth, or experience postpartum hemorrhaging or an infection other than COVID-19, according to an NIH news release. They’re also more likely to lose the pregnancy or have a baby die during the newborn period. 

Women with mild or asymptomatic infection didn’t experience these pregnancy risks. Five women in the study died and had tested positive for COVID.

The study was published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It looked at 14,104 pregnant people in 17 U.S. hospitals, with 2,352 of the women testing positive for COVID. Of the women with COVID, 80% tested positive in the third trimester, 17.6% in the second trimester, and 2.3% in the first trimester.

The babies were delivered between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, before COVID vaccines were widely available.

"The findings underscore the need for women of child-bearing age and pregnant individuals to be vaccinated and to take other precautions against becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2," Diana Bianchi, MD, director of NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said in a news release. "This is the best way to protect pregnant women and their babies."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the COVID vaccine for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future.

In a separate NIH-funded study, researchers found that being vaccinated against COVID-19 didn’t reduce the chances of conception in about 2,000 couples in the study.

However, the study found COVID infection may be linked to short-term reduction in fertility in men, according to an NIH news release.

Researchers questioned 2,000 women from December 2020 through November 2021. 

"Our study shows for the first time that COVID-19 vaccination in either partner is unrelated to fertility among couples trying to conceive through intercourse," Amelia Wesselink, MD, who led the research team at Boston University School of Public Health, said in the release. "Time-to-pregnancy was very similar regardless of vaccination status."

Sources:

National Institutes of Health: "NIH-funded study suggests COVID-19 increases risk of pregnancy complications"

The Journal of the American Medical Association: "Association of SARS-CoV-2 Infection With Serious Maternal Morbidity and Mortality From Obstetric Complications"

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding"

National Institutes of Health:  "Study suggests COVID-19 vaccines do not reduce fertility"

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