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COVID doubles the risk of severe pregnancy complications

New research from Kaiser Permanente has found that coronavirus substantially increases the risk of severe complications in pregnancy. The experts analyzed records for more than 40,000 pregnant women during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The study revealed that the 1,332 patients who tested positive for coronavirus during pregnancy had more than double the risk of negative outcomes, such as preterm birth or blood clot. 

Pregnant women who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 were also much more susceptible to severe maternal morbidity, which includes conditions such as acute respiratory distress syndrome and sepsis.

Study lead author Dr. Assiamira Ferrara is a senior research scientist and associate director of the women’s and children health section in the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

“These findings add to the growing evidence that having COVID-19 during pregnancy raises risks of serious complications,” explained Dr. Ferrara.

“Coupled with the evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe during pregnancy, these findings should aid patients in understanding the risks of perinatal complications and the need for vaccination. This study supports the recommendation for vaccination of pregnant individuals and those planning conception.”

According to Dr. Ferrara, a strength of the study is that it followed a large group of diverse patients from preconception through their pregnancies to assess possible associations between perinatal complications and COVID-19 infection.

The research was focused on pregnant patients of Kaiser Permanente in Northern California who delivered babies between March 2020 and March 2021. The results showed that pregnant women who tested positive for coronavirus were more likely to be younger, Hispanic, have had multiple babies, had obesity, or lived in a neighborhood with high economic deprivation.

Coronavirus patients had twice the risk of preterm birth. This risk was elevated during early, middle, and late terms of the pregnancy. Covid infection was also associated with three times the risk of  thromboembolism, or blood clot, and 2.5 times the risk of developing a severe maternal morbidity.

“Our study was large, diverse, and supports the need for vaccination by pregnant individuals and those who plan to get pregnant,” said co-author Dr. Mara Greenberg. “The most important thing people can do to protect themselves and their baby is to get vaccinated.”

The study is published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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