According to a new study, women who have COVID-19 at the end of their pregnancy are more likely to suffer birth-related difficulties. The research was published in the ‘Nature Medicine Journal.’ Women who get COVID-19 in the early stages of pregnancy or who have not had COVID-19 at all are more likely to experience difficulties.
Preterm births, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths were shown to be more likely in women who had the virus 28 days or fewer before their due date. According to one of the first nationwide studies of pregnancy with COVID-19, the majority of problems, including Covid-related critical care hospitalizations, occurred among unvaccinated women.
More should be done, according to the researchers, to promote vaccine uptake in pregnant women, whose immunization rates are substantially lower than those of women in the general population. The researchers examined data from all pregnant women in Scotland. It involved about 87,000 pregnant women from the start of vaccine uptake in December 2020 and the end of the study in October 2021.
Vaccination uptake was lower among pregnant women compared to women aged 18 to 44 in the general population during the research period. In October 2021, 32% of pregnant women who gave birth were completely vaccinated, meaning more than 14 days had passed after a second shot, compared to 77% of the general female population aged 18 to 44. Since the start of Scotland’s immunization program, a total of 4,950 instances of Covid-19 have been verified during pregnancy, with unvaccinated women accounting for 77% of these cases.
Approximately 12% of COVID-19 cases were in partly vaccinated pregnant women – those who had only received one vaccination dose or were detected within 14 days of their second dose. This compared to 11% of cases among fully vaccinated women.
The researchers looked at data on protracted perinatal fatalities, which are defined as a baby dying in the womb after 24 weeks of pregnancy or during the first 28 days after delivery. They discovered that the prolonged perinatal mortality rate was 23 per 1,000 births for babies born within 28 days of their mother producing Covid-19.
All of the babies that died were born to moms who had not been vaccinated against COVID-19 at the time of infection. More than three weeks before their due date, 17% of infants born within 28 days of their mother having COVID-19 were delivered prematurely.
These figures were then compared to the background rates of protracted perinatal deaths and preterm births, which are the rates for all babies delivered in Scotland, regardless of whether their mothers had previously contracted COVID-19 or had been vaccinated. During the pandemic, Scotland’s baseline perinatal death rate was six per 1,000, with an 8% preterm birth rate.
Because they did not have access to comprehensive health information for individual women, experts said it was impossible to establish if COVID-19 caused the deaths or premature deliveries. Hospitalization and critical care admissions were also considerably higher in pregnant women with COVID-19 who were unvaccinated at the time of diagnosis than in vaccinated pregnant women, with 98 percent of women with COVID-19 during pregnancy hospitalized to critical care being unvaccinated. Complication rates in women who got a COVID-19 immunization during pregnancy were also tracked by the researchers.
Perinatal death and preterm birth rates were remarkably close to background rates in women within 28 days of getting a vaccine, at four per 1,000 and eight percent, respectively, offering further confidence on the safety of immunization during pregnancy. These findings are part of the COPS project, which collected population-based data on the incidence and consequences of COVID-19 infection and immunization in pregnancy across Scotland. COPS is an outgrowth of the EAVE II project, which tracks the pandemic and vaccination deployment in real time in Scotland using anonymized linked patient data.
Scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Strathclyde, and St Andrew’s, as well as Public Health Scotland and Victoria University of Wellington, were part of the study team.
Dr Sarah Stock, co-lead of COPS and a consultant obstetrician at the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute, said: “Our findings support the theory that prenatal immunization does not raise the risk of pregnancy problems, whereas COVID-19 does. COVID-19 vaccine is essential throughout pregnancy to protect mothers and kids from COVID-19’s avoidable, life-threatening consequences.”
“Our national data show that being vaccinated during pregnancy was associated with reduced risk of serious outcomes for both mother and baby.” stated EAVE II research leader Professor Aziz Sheikh, Director of the Usher Institute.