Women Who Get Covid-19 Towards End Of Pregnancy At Increased Risk Of Complications, Study Finds

·5-min read
Photo credit: Oscar Wong - Getty Images
Photo credit: Oscar Wong - Getty Images

Article updated on 17/1/22: Covid-19 has been linked to birth-related complications, according to a new study.

The Covid in Pregnancy Study (Cops), conducted by researchers in Scotland, found that women who contract Covid-19 towards the end of their pregnancy are more vulnerable to birth-related complications than women who catch the virus early in pregnancy or not at all.

The study, published by Nature Medicine, involved researchers analysing data relating to pregnant women in Scotland, of which more than 87,000 were pregnant between the start of the vaccine rollout in December 2020 and October 2021. Less than a third of women (32%) who gave birth in October 2021 were fully vaccinated, compared with over three quarters (77%) of the general female population between the ages of 18 to 44 who were vaccinated.

Of the total 4,950 cases of Covid-19 which were confirmed during pregnancy since the start of the vaccination programme, 77% were found to involve unvaccinated women, 12% were partially vaccinated and 11% were fully vaccinated.

Researchers found that preterm births, stillbirths and newborn deaths were more likely among women who had the virus 28 days, or less, before their due date. The data also showed that almost a fifth (17%) of babies born within 28 days of their mother developing Covid were delivered prematurely (more than three weeks before their due date), compared to a preterm birth rate of less than a tenth (8%).

Photo credit: Oscar Wong - Getty Images
Photo credit: Oscar Wong - Getty Images

In order to protect pregnant women and their babies from life-threatening complications, researchers have called for measures to increase the vaccination uptake among pregnant women.

Prof Nicola Steedman, the Scottish government's deputy chief medical officer, said: 'This is an incredibly important piece of research, what it goes to show is Covid is that dangerous for pregnant women both for themselves and for their babies.

'There is really strong evidence now that Covid has much greater risks for pregnant women if they get it later in pregnancy and that vaccination is protective, so my message would be please if you have hesitated before and you are pregnant, please please get the vaccination for your own protection and for the protection of your baby.'

Edward Morris, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president, noted that while the study analysed birth outcome in Scotland, 'it reflects what we are seeing nationally'.

'We want to reassure women that the vaccine and booster are safe in pregnancy and it is the best way of protecting you and your baby from covid-19,' he concluded, per the BMJ.

The NHS states that pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding are 'strongly recommended' to get vaccinated against Covid-19. It also outlines that the vaccine cannot give the mother or child Covid and there is no evidence that the vaccines have any effect on fertility.

To find out more information about the Covid-19 vaccination and pregnancy, click here.

Article originally published 26/11/22: Pregnant women have been urged to get the Covid-19 vaccine after new evidence analysed by health officials found it to be safe.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has analysed more than 350,000 deliveries in England during the pandemic until August of this year.

The data has found that pregnant women who have had the vaccine are no more likely than those who are unvaccinated to suffer stillbirth, premature birth or have babies who weigh less than usual.

According to the Guardian, Dr June Raine, the chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, said: ‘We want to reassure all pregnant women that the Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective for them to use at all stages of pregnancy.

‘Our rigorous safety monitoring of these vaccines in pregnancy shows that the vaccines are safe and that there is no increased risk of pregnancy complications, miscarriage or stillbirth.'

Health officials hope that new research will encourage those who aren't yet vaccinated to get jabbed.

‘Every pregnant woman who has not yet been vaccinated should feel confident to go and get the jab,' Dr Mary Ramsay, who heads up the immunisation department at UKHSA, told the publication.

As for pregnant women who have already been vaccinated, heath leaders believe the new data should be ‘reassuring’.

It also revealed that of the 355,299 women who gave birth between January and August 2021, 24,759 had received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Photo credit: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images - Getty Images
Photo credit: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images - Getty Images

In the months leading up to the new data there had been confusion about how safe and effective the vaccine is for pregnant women.

Last month the Guardian reported that some pregnant women claimed via messages on the Vaccines and Pregnancy helpline that their midwives had warned them not to get the vaccine due to the impact on ovulation and menstruation, and complained about the misinformation around pregnancy and the vaccine.

Dr Jo Mountfield, consultant obstetrician and a vice-president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said the reports were 'concerning'.

'The vaccine is safe in pregnancy, and is the best way to protect both mother and baby from becoming seriously ill from Covid-19,' she said last month, according to the Guardian.

At present a staggering 98% of the pregnant women currently in hospital with symptomatic Covid-19 haven’t been vaccinated.

Since July, out of all the critically ill patients in hospital one in five have been unvaccinated pregnant women, with only 22% of women who gave birth in August having been vaccinated.

Dr Nikki Kanani, a GP and deputy lead for the NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme, recently told the publication: 'We will continue to advise midwives and clinicians to give expectant mums the information and support they need to make the right decision for them and their babies.'

Pregnant women were among the first to be offered the jab in December 2020.

Find out more information about vaccinations for pregnant women on the NHS website here.

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