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Pregnant people infected with COVID-19 are at higher risk of death and stillbirths, CDC warns

KUT
/
Miguel Gutierrez Jr.

People who are pregnant are at higher risk of dying from COVID-19, as well as having a stillbirth, according to reports released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One study from the federal health agency found the risk for stillbirth “was higher in deliveries with COVID-19 compared with deliveries without COVID-19 during March 2020–September 2021.”

Researchers noted the association was stronger when the delta variant was predominant.

They said COVID-19 prevention strategies, including vaccination before or during pregnancy, were "critical to reducing the impact of COVID-19 on stillbirths.”

In a second study focused on data from Mississippi, researchers found pregnant women were at increased risk for “severe illness and death from COVID-19 compared with women who are not pregnant.”

State health officials looked into 15 COVID-associated deaths — nine Black women, three Latino women and three white women. The rate of death among pregnant women infected with the coronavirus was nine deaths for 1,000 infections. The rate among females of reproductive age in general was 2.5 deaths per 1,000 infections during the same time period.

Researchers also found “an apparent increase in the ratio of COVID-19–associated deaths per 1,000 cases among pregnant women as the Delta variant became predominant.”

According to the CDC report, the 15 women who died in Mississippi “had been admitted to an intensive care unit, and 14 required invasive mechanical ventilation.” Seven of the women had emergency cesarean deliveries and three died “during pregnancy, resulting in one spontaneous abortion at 9 weeks and two stillbirths at 22 and 23 weeks’ gestation, and 12 died after a live birth.”

Doctors around the country had been reporting, anecdotally, a rise in the number of pregnant people getting severely sick with COVID when the delta variant began to surge in the U.S. During a spike of infections in August, doctors in the Austin area said they were seeing a rise in the number of pregnant women coming into hospitals who were eventually put on life support.

Doctors in Texas also raised concerns about the risk of stillbirths among these patients.

CDC officials have been urging pregnant people to get vaccinated. Despite the increased risk for severe illness and death, they have been less likely to get a shot compared to the general eligible population.

According to researchers who looked into the COVID deaths in Mississippi, none of the 15 women who died had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Five deaths occurred before COVID-19 vaccinations became available in December 2020,” they said in their report. “One decedent had been partially vaccinated; and nine were unvaccinated.”

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