According to the first large-scale study of its kind, pregnant women are at no greater risk of being admitted to hospital with severe coronavirus symptoms than other women.

The study examined more than 420 expectant mothers who were admitted to hospital with critical cases of COVID-19 between March 1 and April 14. Results show that only 10% of them required treatment in ICU. This figure is comparable to the statistics for other woman who are not pregnant.

Generally, women have weaker immune systems during pregnancy to prevent their immune cells from attacking the new life growing inside them. This can lead to a higher risk of health complications for both mother and baby if the mother contracts an illness such as flu.

For this reason, the chief medical officer has listed expectant mothers at higher risk from coronavirus. However, the results of this study suggest that, thankfully they are no more susceptible to becoming severely ill from coronavirus than other women of reproductive age.

Consistent with data for the general population as a whole, pregnant women from black and minority ethnic backgrounds were more than four times likely to be hospitalised with COVID-19 during pregnancy.  This worrying trend is currently under investigation.

Pre-existing health conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, also contributed to raising the likelihood of hospitalisation, as stated by the results of the study.

The health outcomes for babies born to mothers who previously contracted the coronavirus were also detailed in the report. It was revealed that 1 in 20 babies born tested positive with COVID-19, however only half of them did so immediately after birth. Researchers say that this indicates that the transmission of infection from mother to baby is low.  On the whole, babies born to mothers with coronavirus were healthy and born after 37 weeks.

Researchers at Oxford University also discovered that the majority of women who became severely ill with the virus were in their third trimester of pregnancy. The study highlights the importance of continued social distancing measures of women in this later stage of pregnancy.

Chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, Gill Walton, stressed that despite the global pandemic, it was “absolutely vital” that women continue to attend their antenatal appointment.

Commenting on the study, Andrew Shennan, a professor of obstetrics at King’s College London, has said “pregnant women can be reassured by this. The outcomes are excellent for the baby, with 97% live births, very similar to a control group (and) the chance of serious problems to the mother are very similar to non-pregnant populations.”

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References

NHS, (2020) “Why are pregnant women at higher risk of flu complications?”, available at:
https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/pregnancy/why-are-pregnant-women-at-higher-risk-of-flu-complications/

Independent, (2020) “Pregnant women not at greater risk of severe coronavirus, major study finds”, available at:
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/coronavirus-pregnant-women-social-distancing-oxford-study-a9508416.html

NHS, (2020) “Pregnancy and coronavirus”, available at:
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/people-at-higher-risk-from-coronavirus/pregnancy-and-coronavirus/

Chalmers, (2020) “Pregnant women ‘are NOT at greater risk of developing severe coronavirus’ as study reveals FIVE mothers-to-be have died from COVID-19 in NHS hospitals”, available at:
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8307437/Pregnant-women-NOT-greater-risk-hospitalised-severe-COVID-19.html

Kelland, (2020) “UK COVID-19 study reassures pregnant women, but warns risks higher later”, available at:
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-pregnancy/uk-covid-19-study-reassures-pregnant-women-but-warns-risks-higher-later-idUSKBN22N1N8

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